Opinion

Learning lesson | Editorial

The release of the results of the survey by the Mercer Island School District is welcome news. The School Board hired experts to find out what voters were thinking when they considered whether or not to vote for the $196 million bond issue to rebuild Island schools. The bond issue was soundly defeated in April.

Just days after the final survey call was made, the results have been published and are being discussed. The School Board met with the City Council on Tuesday morning (after Reporter deadline) to hear the results and strategize about the future, including locations for a possible sixth school.

A first look at the results indicates that key assumptions about Island voters were faulty on both sides.

Those who opposed the bond were certain that many older voters would be hurt by the tax increase — the implication being that they would not support the measure. Assuming the survey sample is representative of Island voters, more than three-quarters of voters here are 45 years old or more, with 42 percent of the total over the age of 60. It is assumed that older voters are worried about taxes. And that those whose own children are long out of school would not vote for the bonds, right? Not exactly. The survey results reveal that 83 percent of survey respondents, young or old or in the middle, would consider voting for a proposal that would increase taxes. But most did not, citing factors such as the extreme dollar amount of the proposed bonds and doubts about the need for new buildings.

The School Board, for its part, believed that Islanders would —as they almost always had — support schools by voting yes.

Survey respondents were asked what they felt were the most important ingredients in a first-class educational system. The survey shows that voters overwhelmingly believe good teachers and a challenging curriculum — not the school buildings — are most important. The survey reveals that just 15 percent of respondents felt that “modern buildings, equipment and facilities” were “extremely important” as opposed to the vast majority who believe that teachers and administration — who are well paid — contribute to better learning for students.

The School Board has its work cut out for it. But knowing a bit more about what voters think about schools will help.

 

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