Voters Approved 77% of Local School Funding Issues
Of the more than 150 education-related issues on the state’s local ballots, voters approved more than three-quarters.
The Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) reports voters approved 77 percent of funding issues for schools, which included support for a greater than usual number of new funding issues—56 percent.
Damon Asbury, director of legislative services for OSBA, says some see running a school funding issue during a presidential election as a benefit because voter turnout is higher. But Asbury says other district officials worry their issue will be drowned out with the greater number of line items on the ballot.
In terms of strategy, some districts ran multiple issues on this year’s ballot, while others ran a single issue for a combination of funding needs. Asbury remembers running 3 funding issues on a single ballot in the days when he served as a superintendent.
“You’re hoping that all 3 will pass, but you’re worried that if all three are lumped together or two are lumped together and they both fail (the issue goes down), you’re left with nothing. So, sometimes you have to base it on what you know about your community and what the issues are,” says Asbury.
He says he understands the tough position that district leaders face when a funding issue fails.
“Often times that’s resulting in staff cuts or program cuts or services: transportation or sports. Those are always difficult things to do. No one wants to be playing take away,” he says.
When an issue does fail, Asbury recommends that district leaders have frank conversations with constituents and consider whether they clearly stated their need for funds.
“I think that the simpler and more direct the request is, the more likely you’ll get approval,” says Asbury.
Voters last week passed a bond issue for construction and renovations in the Euclid City School District. Superintendent Charlie Smailek says he’s grateful voters approved the bond.
Smailek is among many superintendents in the state who say the number of school funding issues on the 2016 ballot point to a larger problem: Ohio’s model for funding public education.
“School districts shouldn’t have to continue to come to their electorate, their residents and say, ‘We need more.’ There should be a funding model within a state--in fact there are funding models in other states that don’t require this, at times, herculean effort on behalf of local taxpayers and local school districts who have to make sure they convey the need.”
Smailek says his district was successful because he’s worked with colleagues to increase the district presence in community meetings and events.