Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Districts Pursue Referenda For Construction And (What Else) Pre-K

    It’s that time of year again: put on your good citizen hat and rock that vote. It’s election season.

    Two Indiana school districts will pursue referenda this Nov. 4: the East Noble School Corporation of Noble County, as well as the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation.

    Two Indiana school districts will pursue referenda during this November's elections.

    Lee Creighton / Flickr

    Two Indiana school districts will pursue referenda during this November's elections.

    The former hopes to raise money for construction of an entirely new middle school building, as well as mechanical and roof improvements at the district high school. East Noble school officials will ask for 35 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to cover about $37 million in building costs between budget years 2020 and 2032.

    According to the project’s website, over the last year or so, district officials held community forums and met with several local groups to solicit input. Leaders considered renovating the current building, but decided to pursue funds for an entirely new facility on the ballot.

    Should voters pass the measure, the ENSC School Board will move forward with securing an architect for floor plans and formalizing the purchase of the land.

    Over in Bartholomew County, the question is something residents have heard before and one plenty of districts in Indiana are thinking about right now: pre-k.

    County officials are seeking a property tax increase of 5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for seven years to fund pre-k for low income 4-year-olds living in the district. And, this isn’t the first time – voters turned down a similar referendum when it appeared on the ballot in 2012.

    But, the state is seeing a significant push for pre-k these days, which could help the county’s cause. In an interview with local news/talk station WCSI Radio, BCSC Superintendent John Quick said a change in state law since the last time around is also a plus:

    State law at the time did not allow any description of the plan for the money […] Quick said a change in state law will allow the district to have some space on the ballot to explain the proposal.

    “That was an issue with us in 2012 when we tried it…the law didn’t allow you to describe what your question was. Our local legislators helped us get that law changed and you are able to add a description. Which we think is just a fair thing, to tell people why you are voting on this issue.”

    Bartholomew County already has a thriving pre-k program, Busy Bees Academy, currently operating under funds from a private grant that ends in May 2015. The additional $1.8 million per year sought through the referendum would expand the Busy Bees program as well as allow the district to offer other pre-k programs.

    This past May, we saw an election cycle packed with referenda measures – nine school corporations had ten separate measures on their local ballots, nine of which passed. That’s a much better rate than the state has seen in the past: since November of 2008, Indiana has tried 102 school-related referenda and only about half have passed.

    As some experts told StateImpact, offering referenda in May rather than November means those measures may be some of the only items on the ballot, bringing out motivated voters and increasing the chances those measures will pass.

    Check out our referenda scorecard to see how voters in other districts have weighed in on similar questions since 2008.


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