Eye on Education

Survey Says Ohioans Trust Their Local School Boards…So How About That Levy This November?

Martha T. / Flickr

The majority of Ohoians support their local schools and school boards, but they don’t like using public funds to pay for kids to go to private schools. At least that’s what a recent survey found.

The survey was conducted by the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, and the Ohio School Boards Association and is based on a sample of 800 Ohioans likely to vote in November’s general election.

According to the survey, almost two-thirds of respondents said they trust their school board to “make good decisions” when it comes to education policies. But if Ohioans have such trust in their school boards, why don’t they trust them when they ask for more money via a levy campaign?

“It’s not an easy environment to pass a school levy right now,” says David Varda, executive director of OASBO. Varda and other school district lobbyists continue to point to a slow economic recovery as the reason districts have had such trouble passing levies.

And Damon Asbury with OSBA says it’s also important to keep in mind that “generally speaking less than 30 percent of the people have children in schools and not all of those people are going to necessarily support a levy.”

In other words, it’s always harder to convince folks without kids in the local public school district to vote to raise their own taxes.

Asbury says it doesn’t help that many Ohioans don’t understand how school funding works, and more specifically how dependent schools are on local support.

But, OASBO’s David Varda says there may be hope.

Over the last couple years, teachers made concessions in pay and benefits while schools cut back on extracurricular programs and implemented pay-to-play. Varda says all that helps restore voter confidence that schools are spending money appropriately.

“I think that it still comes down to in each community proving that the money that the schools have has been spent correctly and the schools are doing what the community wants.” Varda says.

Varda says voters tend to figure if the school district has made some sacrifices, they might be willing to as well.

But school funding isn’t just a local community issue.

Varda says while voters may approve of their local schools, they’d also like to see a bit more funding come from the state level. Gov. John Kasich’s 2011 budget cut roughly $700 million from school funding according to Politifact Ohio.

More than half of respondents to the OSBA/OASBO/BASA survey said the state should use revenues from shale and oil gas taxes to restore cuts to local governments and schools. What’s more, respondents said they don’t like the idea of public funds paying for a student’s private school tuition. In fact, 64 percent of respondents oppose vouchers.

But the real lesson here, according to Varda, is that while Ohioans would like to see their local public schools get more money, they want control over what happens with that money to stay local instead of falling to folks in Columbus.

Almost 64 percent of those surveyed said they trust their local school board to make decisions for their local schools, compared with just about 14 percent who have similar faith in the legislature. Less than 7 percent have the same kind of faith in Kasich.

For Damon Asbury with OSBA, that kind of faith in school boards is good news, because as he puts it “the school board is the most basic building block of democracy.”


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