The Recipe for a Successful Referendum
Posted by whforums on June 24, 2008
I was poking around in the tubes when I came across this article — “Why Do School Budget Referenda Fail?” (link to a free, full download of the article is at the bottom of the linked page). Its research scope is only the New York State Public schools (the chief researcher is from Cornell), but the findings are still pretty compelling. If you don’t feel like reading 21 pages of academic hoo-haw (sp.?), here are some highlights:
“Two previous studies found that an increase in elderly voters was associated with no change or a reduction in educational spending per student, however when the elderly and the school age population came from different racial groups, both found that an increase in the fraction of elderly voters was associated with lower educational spending per student” (page 5).
“… the estimate implies that defeat (sic.) a budget referendum in one year increases the probability that this will occur in the next year by 7.8 percentage points. Thus, budget referendum do have a narcotic effect (author’s emphasis), in the sense that they increase the chance that a district’s voters will defeat the budget proposal in a subsequent year” (page 18).
“Voters in school districts whose board members have longer terms have a lower probability of rejecting budget proposals” (page 20 — this runs counter the the final claim in the abstract — after reading the paper, the f inal claim in the abstract seems to have been inverted).
So … take one part shifting racial identity of town, one part recent referendum success, add a pinch of short term limits and … sound like any place you know?
Anyway, “Yes,” don’t despair …
“For those districts that held second votes on the same or a revised budget, the probability of passage the second time was 58%” (page 12).