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Approval ratings for school bond and tax issues falter in 11 states

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August 5, 2011

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By Bailey Ludlam

Of the approximately 1,248 local ballot questions that have appeared on ballots in 11 states so far this year, 293 specifically related to school bond and tax issues. The total approval rating of the nearly 300 issues sits right at 63.9%, according to a study released by Ballotpedia.

Overall, the odd election year has not only garnered a lower approval rating than 2010 (71.3%) but also lists 435 fewer measures on ballots compared to last year's even election year. Although 2010's study reflected statistics in 14 states, compared to the 11 studied in 2011, a grand total of 728 school and tax measures appeared on ballots.

A total of 292 school bond and tax issues were voted on in the first half of the year, between January and June 2011.

It must be noted, however, that the states of Arizona and Colorado did not have any measures during the first half of the year that dealt with school issues. Other states considered in the study include: California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin.

According to Johanna Herman, the lead researcher for the study, the 11 states included in the study were chosen because of their relative ease of access to information about school bond and tax elections, compared to the states not included in the study. However, Herman notes, "Those states which still lack full county info, notably Illinois and Missouri, are not accurate in their statistics. These states do not have full coverage of the election held on the county level therefore making it difficult to compile an accurate analysis of school issues that were presented to voters and their final outcomes."

Creating thorough and easily navigable websites, Herman said, is key to "creating overall understanding of the state's local elections and generate more awareness by outsiders who don not necessarily live in those areas."

Of the 11 states researched, Florida was the state with the highest approval rating. However, Florida only had one school property tax measure on the ballot. In second, was the state of Michigan which had an approval rating of 79%. A total of 87 measures were approved and 23 were defeated. Specifically, Michigan's measures included: school bonds (35) and school property tax votes (75).

On the other end of the spectrum, Illinois came in dead last with an approval rating of 29%. The Midwestern state saw a total of 14 school bond and tax measures on the ballot in the first six-month period. Of the 14 measures, four were approved and 10 were defeated.

Type of school finance measure # of elections 2011 (2010) # of approvals 2011 (2010)  % approved 2011 (2010)
Bonds 66 (283) 83 (171) 44.3% (60.4%)
Taxes, tax levies 227 (467) 81 (356) 73.4% (76.2%)
Totals: 291 (728) 163 (519) 64.1% (71.3%)

Notes: In 2010 a total of 14 states were evaluated, whereas the 2011 study includes only 11 states.


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