NewsEducation / October 27, 2020

Only 4 Indiana School Districts Are Asking Voters For Referendum Funding In November Election

Original story from   IPBS-RJC

Article origination IPBS-RJC
School leaders say they're reaching fewer older voters with their referendum campaign messaging compared to other age groups, but are encouraged by the amount of people getting out to vote ahead of Election Day.  - Lauren Chapman/IPB News

School leaders say they're reaching fewer older voters with their referendum campaign messaging compared to other age groups, but are encouraged by the amount of people getting out to vote ahead of Election Day.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Only four school corporations in Indiana are seeking voter-approval on funding referendums in the Nov. 3 general election.

It's the fewest number of referendums on ballots around the state since 2014, but school leaders say years of funding changes and shortfalls – combined the COVID-19 pandemic – makes their requests even more critical.

Bremen Public Schools, Wawasee Community School Corporation, and Southeast Dubois County School Corporation all have referendums on the ballot for the first time. 

For Bremen Superintendent Jim White, referendum funding means more mental health support for students, and hiring more counselors and school nurses.

"I have approximately 1,462 students, and I have one school nurse. And so I really need to get closer to that recommendation of one nurse per 500 students," he said.

Wawasee Superintendent Tom Edington said the proposed funding will go toward hiring school resource officers, expanding career technical education, and continuing efforts to improve instruction. 

And for Southeast Dubois, Superintendent Jamie Pund said a referendum win will help the school corporation avoid cuts as it faces declining enrollment and revenue. 

But not all of the referendums on the ballot this season are first time requests. 

Paige McNulty manages Gary Community School Corporation. The district has been under state-hired management since 2017. She said the referendum there will help the district balance its budget – something she says is a key move to end the state control.

"So if we are able to get this referendum passed that would get us over that hump so that we can get there and get the school district back to local control which is what everybody wants," she said.

Voters have rejected two Gary referendums since 2015. The last referendum was rejected by just 50.9 percent of voters, but experts say schools with experience running a referendum campaign tend to be more successful after earlier attempts.

Contact reporter Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.

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