So, Your Bond Proposal Failed. What Now?
Last week’s bond proposals across the State of Michigan saw a variety of landslide victories, close calls, and, unfortunately, many defeats. The idea that the community will support a public school bond proposal is never a given. Despite research indicating the link between the protection of property values with a yes vote, it sometimes isn’t enough to sway homeowners.
Every bond is different: size, scope, initial support by the community, dedicated parents to run your “yes committee” campaign. But, if your district has lost a bond vote in the past couple of years, we can guarantee there is one thing they all have in common: voter complacency.
We define voter complacency in very simple terms: voter complacency for public school bond proposals is when your own district parents and supporters simply don’t make the time or effort to get out and cast their yes vote. It’s when you’ve calculated having 2,000 yes votes from parents living in your district and received only 1,400. It’s when you watch the ballot numbers finally come in and say, “If only all of our own parents would have gone out and voted in favor of the bond.”
Why is this happening so often lately?
We’re not actually sure.
Baseball games, late meetings, sick children, the general busyness of the parents you’re counting on, are all things that come to mind. However, if we had to put our money on one single factor affecting voter complacency it would be this: your supporters assume it’s going to pass despite their complacency.
Yard signs, flyers in local restaurants and shops, brochures hand delivered to front porches by a school leader – your best efforts can all lead to a false sense of security and lead parents to believe their vote doesn’t matter, or isn’t required. After all, half of their neighbors have a “Vote Yes for Kids” sign in their yard. Surely, everyone else will make the time to vote yes.
Urgency and ownership
To pass a school bond, you have to create a sense of urgency and ownership among your parents. Driving through neighborhoods and seeing dozens of supportive yard signs does just the opposite (not to mention it’s expensive). Voters may think the bond is all but passed and they can cross it off their long list of to-dos and things to worry about. Instead, you must create strategies that encourage all stakeholders to play a role in owning the yes vote count: this includes not only parents, but your leadership team, teachers, union leadership, and board of education. Everyone should know your target yes vote count and work tirelessly to help you reach it.
Galapagos recently worked with one Michigan school district to overcome a loss of more than 1,000 votes. We honed our strategies to find tactics that work, while avoiding excessive time and money spent on strategies to reach the masses. In some communities, passing a bond is a grind that does not stop until 8 p.m. the evening of the vote.
It’s worth the grind and we’re here to help. Reach out if you’d like to chat more.