Looking for the positives
By BILL GRAY
Mt. Pleasant News
So what positives can we glean from the New London School Bond election?
1. New London Community School District patrons are consistent in their beliefs. How else do you explain a 4-vote margin between “yeses” and “nos” in both of the votes held 14 months apart?
2. OK, I’ve been sitting here for awhile. Not really coming up with anything.
It’s a tough world out there for local governments because there’s a strong “no new taxes, period” feeling. Not that this is a new development, but given the economic times, it’s quite a bit deeper and more daunting than past years.
Voter turnout was 36 percent, which is decent for a non-general election, but hardly indicative of strong community involvement in the issue. Turnout was slightly better than the first vote, but given the tiny margin of “yes” vs. “no” was the exact same tiny margin both times, hardly encouraging.
It’s up to New London patrons, of course, to decide whether the proposed school facilities improvements are worth pursuing. If the district would decide not to try, try again, with the project, it appears that might satisfy half of the voters and make half of the voters unhappy.
What about the 64 percent that didn’t vote? Might it mean they didn’t understand the issue or believe it was important enough to merit their vote? Successful bond elections -- or bond elections that were decisively defeated, for that matter -- come about because of a highly motivated electorate.
Doing nothing seems a risky option, given the nearly 50-50 split. A viable alternative – with built-in irony -- is to educate, educate, educate. The more the patrons know about the current facilities and why the district is making these proposals for improvements, the better.
Sometimes patrons, particularly those of us who have more than a couple of decades since our high school class graduated, lose touch with the current conditions of their schools, if not the current needs of local education. If supporters want to garner more votes, they should consider school tours, consider sharing photos and documentation of the areas they want to correct, and consider other ways to market their message and educate.
So make your local media, including all of these wonderful social media, part of the effort. Testimonials, which were used a bit in the most recent campaign, often serve only to solidify a support base, not expand it. Lay out the facts, too, early and often.
Having made these unsolicited suggestions, I’m also going to stress that I don’t have an opinion myself on whether the school bond issue as presented is a good one or bad one. But if I was a patron of the district – which I’m not – I’d be thinking hard about the impact on my wallet, the impact on my community’s children, and the pluses and minuses it might create for the local economy.
So as a hypothetical New London Schools patron, I could take a marketing and education campaign and decide these school improvements are needed. Or I might take that information as validation that the status quo is best.
But given the current divide, moving forward with a closer examination of the improvement issues seems the best way to close the divide and establish a clear direction for New London school district supporters.