Anecdotal evidence from the Round Rock ISD bond election failure

Reviewing public online commentS after the Round Rock ISD bond failed to carry

Let's begin with a definition of anecdotal evidence:

Wikipedia: Anecdotal evidence is evidence collected in a casual or informal manner and relying heavily or entirely on personal testimony.

I used to live in Round Rock and all of my children attended Round Rock schools. I also have a sister-in-law that was a principal for a middle school there years ago. I've since moved a little farther north but still pay attention to what goes on there.

After the recent school bond failed to carry, I was interested in hearing what residents had to say about this. As in any political event, I suspected that the opinions would be varied and strong.

Full disclosure: I gathered much of the info for this post from the comments associated with this Austin-American Statesman article, dated May 7, 2017. 

Also taken from the article is this listing of the three propositions that made of the total bond offer:

Proposition 1, which would have paid for construction of the district’s sixth high school and its 35th elementary school and for improvements to aging facilities, was defeated with 52 percent opposition.

Proposition 2, which would have funded a districtwide career tech high school and expansions at several schools, failed with 53 percent opposition.

Proposition 3, which included plans for an indoor aquatics center and other athletics and arts facilities, was shot down with 57 percent opposition.

As you can see, the vote for Prop 1 was close. The funds were targeted at new construction and renovating aging facilities. Most people find that to be a reasonable use of funds.

Prop 2 was mainly for expansion of schools. Again, most people can understand the need.

Prop 3 was mainly for funding athletics and also indicates arts. This proposition had the highest margin of failure. I think that makes a statement.

Voter turnout was between 5% and 6%. The school district made a comment about this being low, but in looking at voter turnout for other school bond elections across the state, this turnout was not too bad.

Before we get to the comments, let's look at two other aspects: the cost to taxpayers and schools in two counties. 

The school district said the bonds would cost the owner of the typical $290,000 Round Rock home an extra $26.75 in taxes a year. Critics claimed that the amount was closer to $300 per year, which led to the district countering the critics with the claim that they didn't consider home appreciation over the next few years. I haven't looked into who is closer to the truth, but the huge variance in the homeowner cost estimate is something that should have been a focus of the district in order to have a better chance of success.

comments

Round Rock ISD has schools that sit in Travis and Williamson counties. The support for the bonds was greater in Williamson that Travis, and my guess is because there are many more campuses in Williamson county.

Now to some of the comments:

 Round Rock ISD bond failure comments from Austin-American Statesman

Round Rock ISD bond failure comments from Austin-American Statesman

A scan of these comments highlights a few things:

  • Timing of the election (May vs November)
  • Change in school boundary line
  • Discrepancy in cost to taxpayers
  • Funds for athletics

Each school district faces a host of "Monday morning quarterbacks" whenever their bond election fails. There is a combination of logic and emotion associated with these elections, and districts should realize that emotion tends to win the day. Anyone that sells something knows this.  

The question for Round Rock ISD (and others that have recently lost a bond election) is, now what? The need for renovation and additional space is still very real and present. This district is in a fast growing area in a fast growing state.

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A lot of work went into getting those propositions pulled together and approved by committee and the school board.

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