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Ennis Daily News

New use rules must be fair, equitable

The decision on the table for the Ennis Independent School District’s next meeting in July is one that means equity for the organizations and citizens looking for opportunities to use taxpayer-supported public facilities.
The old policy prohibited use of school facilities by groups that excluded the general public from membership or attendance. It also limited use by religious groups except for church-sponsored recreational programs and either short-term or emergency use only for services. Those kinds of limitations could present some sticky problems for the district in the legal arena.

Under consideration next month is a new set of facilities policies. The new order will not allow the use of facilities by for-profit groups for financial gain or non-profit groups for fund-raising activities. Repeated use is also limited in the document, which states use by any group or organization for non-school purposes is not allowed more than once per week and for no longer than four total weeks in a school year.

Concerning questions popped up when specific prohibitions faced religious organizations under the old policy. The district is exercising no small amount of foresight and wisdom by stopping those kinds of questionable limitations from hanging over the use of facilities bought and paid for by John and Jane Q. Public, who may very well have legitimate public uses for the school’s facilities that were possibly prohibited under the former restrictions on religious use.

That is not to say we cannot see the need for specific guidelines that limit the use of public facilities, however. Taxpayers do foot the bill for the buildings and facilities that make up the district, so a fair amount of public access is critical to the mission the district should follow, but protecting those taxpayers investments is also of key importance as we expect the district to act as the stewards and sentinels watching over the public dollar fed into the operation and maintenance of the city’s schools.

We urge the district to consider the rules they make extremely closely in this regard. Public facilities must be reasonably accessible to members of the community that effectively wrote the check to have them built in the first place, but they must also be well cared for.

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Posted by on Jun 29 2010. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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