Academic journal article Rural Educator

School Bond Success: An Exploratory Case Study

Academic journal article Rural Educator

School Bond Success: An Exploratory Case Study

Article excerpt

Following two-failed school bond issues in 1995 and 1998, one mid-sized rural school district organized an effort that led to two successful school bond elections in 2001 and 2003. The school district's strategic plan mirrored many of the recommendations for successful bond referendums published in School Bond Success: A Strategy for Building America's Schools. Findings from this case study, utilizing a Rapid Assessment Process, illustrate many of the reasons why the school district passed two consecutive bond issues with unprecedented community support. Although the findings from this school district may not match the concerns of all communities, it provides readers with a perspective of voters' beliefs in one rural school district.

The purpose of this study was to determine the perceived most influential factors that led to two successful school bond referendums in one rural mid-size school district. Factors considered were recommendations from the book, School Bond Success: A Strategy for Building America 's Schools (Boschee & Holt, 1999).

Introduction and Literature Review

A significant challenge facing rural school leaders across the United States is the problem of aging school buildings, and for many rural districts a school enrollment that is stagnant or declining. The conclusions and recommendations contained in this exploratory case study should provide rural school leaders with voter input from one rural school district's successful effort to overcome this daunting facility problem.

Research indicates that half of U.S. schools have unsatisfactory environmental conditions, including a lack of appropriate acoustics for noise control, poor ventilation, and inadequate physical security (Holloway, 2000). Further, a study in 2000 by the National Education Association estimated that "$268 billion is needed to bring the nation's schools up to acceptable standards for basic issues such as plumbing, roof integrity, lighting and safety" (McLaughlin & Bavin, 2003, p. 28).

A strong determining factor in the condition of a school is the age of the facility. In 1999, the most recent survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Education found the average age of public school buildings was forty years and on the average major renovations had occurred over eleven years ago. The average functional age of school buildings in America was sixteen years with 40 percent having a functional age of over fifteen years (Lewis, Snow, Farris, Smerdon, Cronen, Kaplan & Greene, 2000).

As would be expected, older schools are in most need of repair, and yet in many cases, they exist in school districts that do not have the funding ability to maintain these buildings (Lewis, et al., 2000). In communities of all sizes where the majority of students are from low-income households, school districts have fewer dollars for preventive maintenance of facilities. Holloway (2000) found that in urban school districts, "about 3.5 percent of the budget is typically spent on facilities maintenance. Of this amount, however. 85 percent is budgeted for emergency repairs, with only a small amount remaining for preventive maintenance" (p. 88).

Some believe that the funding solution for school facilities and other public infrastructures will most likely be determined at the national level rather than the local level. However, Congress has done little to solve the nation's problem of deteriorating school facilities. The No Child Left Behind Ad of 2001 (NCLB) provides for state educational agencies to apply for federal funds to be utilized in local school districts. section 5582, Subpart 18: Healthy, HighPerformance Schools, offers subgrants to be used "(1) to develop a comprehensive energy audit of the energy consumption characteristics of a building and the need for additional energy conservation..., (2) to produce a comprehensive analysis of building strategies, designs, materials, and equipment that (a) are cost effective, produce greater energy efficiency, and enhance indoor air quality; and (b) can be used when conducting school construction and renovation or purchasing materials and equipment, (3) to obtain research and provide technical services and assistance in planning and designing healthy, highperformance school buildings, including developing a timeline for implementation of such plans" (NCLB, 2001). …

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