LWSD | Community survey shows school district support, economic concern


Economic issues cited as reason fewer voted for bond issue

Redmond, Wash. - In the February election, the Lake Washington School District bond measure reached a majority of yes votes but did not get the 60 percent supermajority needed to pass. As a result, the District commissioned a survey of district residents to explore concerns around the bond measure and attitudes about the school district. The good news is that those surveyed generally are impressed with the district. Residents cited concerns about the economy and taxes as the most likely causes for less support for the bond measure.

“Given the cost of running a bond or levy election, it’s critical that we know what our community thinks,” noted Dr. Chip Kimball, superintendent. “What we heard from district residents is that now is not the time to ask for money for school construction, even though in general residents are very positive about the district. As a result, we will not run the bond measure again this year but will look carefully at the most cost-effective alternatives for dealing with the student population that will be coming in the next few years.”

First, the good news. A total of 67 percent of residents give the district an A or B grade on its overall performance, while 13 percent rate it a C, 3 percent a D or F and 18 percent don’t know. That compares to a statewide survey in which 54 percent of state residents gave their local school districts an A or B. It is the fourth highest grade the research company (CFM Research), which regularly works with school districts in Washington state, has ever seen.

Residents who have moved to the area during the past ten years say the quality of local schools influenced their decision where to live. More than half (55 percent) said that the school district was a major influence on deciding where to live and 15 percent said it was a minor influence, for a total of 70 percent. That compares to a statewide survey in 2009 in which 47 percent say quality schools influenced their home buying decision.

Most residents (84 percent) agree that a good school system is one of the most important ways a community can recruit new businesses, create jobs and maintain a stable economy.

Concerns about the economy (43 percent) and taxes (43 percent) were the primary reasons residents say that some people opposed the bond measure. The next two reasons were that schools are doing fine as is (9 percent) and a lack of trust or belief the management of schools is poor (9 percent). Reinforcing those concerns, over half (53 percent) agreed with the statement that now is not the time for schools to be asking for funds to build new schools with the current economic conditions.

When asked specifically about the impact six possible factors had on opinions about the bond measure, residents said three negatively affected community opinions while three were neutral. Those that hurt opinions were:

· No information in the voter pamphlet (75 percent said negative influence)

· Not enough information about the proposal (62 percent)

· Three school funding measures on the ballot (58 percent)

The factors that had a neutral impact were:

· Changing the grade configuration to a four-year high school system (65 percent no difference or positive influence)

· Expanding the Environmental and Adventure School (51 percent no difference or positive)

· Plans to remodel Juanita High School (59 percent no difference or positive)

When it comes to dealing with overcrowding, those surveyed had two choices: changing the grade configuration, building two new elementary schools and increasing the number of classrooms at the high school; or keeping the current grade configuration and building four new elementary schools. The majority (51 percent) preferred the option of changing the grade configuration while 27 percent preferred leaving it as is. (Seven percent preferred neither and 15 percent are not sure.)