The Results Are In: Why Prop C Failed
Survey results give Mehlville School District an insight to the community's concerns.
After Mehlville voted “no” on Prop C on Nov. 2, the school district decided to ask why. After all, Prop C was designed to help fund school improvement programs, and would have addressed a wide variety of “areas of need” as identified by a group of Mehlville community members.
For example, it would have helped pay for programs like all-day kindergarten and better facilities throughout the district, as well as renovations to several elementary and middle schools.
While some Prop C opponents were very open with their concerns, citing things like a “lack of credibility of the school board” and the current state of the economy, the district wanted to find out if the community agreed with these opinions.
Emily McFarland, the district’s Director of Communications, said that the district wasn’t surprised by the answers it received on the survey.
“We heard what people were saying—that we were asking for too much, that it wasn’t the right time for the economy,” McFarland said.
McFarland said that the district wanted to be sure that it understood the community’s position on Prop C, and that people understood what was included in the measure.
“We did find out that they knew, so we educated our public as well as we could,” she said. “We wanted to make sure that we did not fail in educating people. The community knew what it was, but they just didn't want to vote for it.”
The survey illustrated that the community was more concerned with raising teachers' salaries to a competitive level and improving technology than construction and renovations.
Jack Brickey, a member of the Communication Advisory Team who helped present the survey results to the school board, said that while the survey was lengthy, more than 1,200 community members took the time to complete it.
“That told us that people want to be engaged, that they were supporting the school district,” he said. “I was impressed that so many people came forward and were willing to help out.”
Brickey, who has two college-aged children that attended Mehlville schools from kindergarten through high school, said the results of the survey made some recurrent trends pretty evident.
“Folks felt that 88 cents was too much, considering the economy,” Brickey said. “There were also folks who said that they were concerned that there was no sunset clause for the tax levy, meaning that it was indefinite and wasn't going to end at a certain point. That came up numerous times.”
Brickey said other people felt that the major construction projects that were part of Prop C could have been better handled through a bond issue, rather than a tax levy. But, he said, the most significant result he saw from the survey was that people in the community wanted to be involved.
“It was not an ‘us against them’ sort of thing—far from it,” he said. “It’s obvious that people are anxious to support Mehlville schools. It was a timing issue, and partially related to the economy—but they do want to be engaged and involved in the process and that bodes well for the future of the district.”
Keeping the lines of communication open will be critical for the success of the district as it moves forward, Brickey noted, saying the survey was a great start.
“Now the district needs to keep things going,” he said. “It was a wise move for the district to put out the survey, just to kind of take the temperature of the community and find out what they were really thinking, and I think they did just that.”