In 14 states, voters display very different attitudes toward school bonds and taxes

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September 9, 2010

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By Leslie Graves

Between January 1-June 30, 2010, voters in 14 states weighed in on 728 local school bond and tax measures on 17 different election dates, according to a study released by Ballotpedia.

The study found that the overall approval rate for local school bond and tax votes in 14 selected states was 71.3%. The average approval rating for school bond elections was lower, at 60.4% in the 11 states with school bond votes. The average approval rating for school tax votes was 76.2%.

The overall approval percentages disguise the fact that some states had quite low approval percentages while others had extremely high approvals.

For example, voters in Illinois, New Jersey and Ohio all approved fewer than 50% of bond votes, while voters in California, Missouri and New Mexico approved more than 70% of school bond votes, and in the case of New Mexico, 100% of them. The same disparity is seen in analyzing votes on school tax issues. Voters in Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey and Wisconsin had approval ratings of less than 50%, while voters in Florida, Iowa, Michigan and Washington approved tax measures at rates higher than 80% and in some cases, higher than 90%.

According to Johanna Herman, a lead researcher for the study, the 14 states included in the study were chosen because of the relative ease of access in these states to information about school bond and tax elections, compared to the states not included in the study. She noted that school bond and tax election information is hard to come by in many states, saying, "When counties create comprehensive websites, they enable the flow of information, the ease of access by outsiders and the increase in understanding about how school votes are conducted; with the hope that all this information will be disseminated in a way that leads to more informed choices by voters about their local schools."

Type of school finance measure Number of elections Number of approvals  % approved
Bonds 283 171 60.4%
Taxes, tax levies 467 356 76.2%
(Ohio adjustment)[1] (22) (8) na
Totals: 728 519 71.3%

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References

  1. The figures for Ohio include only the results of local school bond and tax votes on May 4, 2010. The school bond total was derived from taking the 8 bond-only measures on the May ballot, 6 of which won, and the 22 bond+tax measures on the May ballot, 9 of which won. In the tax vote category, on May 4 there were 114 tax-only votes (69 were approved) and the same 22 bond+tax votes counted in the bonds column. The overall totals reported on this page are adjusted so that the 22 tax+bond measures are not double-counted in the final summary statistic.