Public opinion may boost drive for new school vote

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 21, 2002

According a recent survey conducted in the Albert Lea School District, the overall rating of the quality of education by those interviewed is above average.

&uot;Obviously your community has a very high amount of respect for your schools,&uot; said Don Lifto, the consultant with The Center for Community Opinion.

The survey found that 12.7 percent of interviewees rated the education provided by district schools as excellent, 35 percent rated it as above average, 39.7 percent rated it as average, 2.3 percent rated the quality as below average and 0.4 percent rated it as poor;12.7 percent were unable to evaluate.

Email newsletter signup

The ratings for administration quality were also high, according to Lifto, but weren’t as high as the education quality ratings. 3.7 percent rated the administration as excellent, 23.8 percent said above average, 51.8 percent said average, 10.1 percent said below average, 4.4 percent said poor and 6.2 percent were unable to evaluate.

The results could be persuasive as the school board tries to decide whether to place an excess levy referendum on the ballot this November to help pay for school programs. A referendum failed last year.

&uot;The survey helps us understand where the community is at. I think that one of the important pieces there was their feeling on the quality of education,&uot; said Dave Prescott, Superintendent of the Albert Lea School district.

&uot;You have to remember that the survey was talking to a random sample of about 300 people of which only about 80 some people were parents, which is pretty reflective of our community. Roughly 70 percent of our voters do not have kids in school at this point. So we need to get their attention, have them understand the importance of strong school system for the community,&uot; Prescott said.

The survey was conducted over a ten-day period this summer. It consisted of 300 random telephone interviews with registered voters in the Albert Lea school district. The results of the survey will be used by the school board to make a decision on whether or not to have a referendum on this fall’s ballot, a decision which will be made this Thursday night.

Other results of the survey showed that support for a referendum varied greatly based on age and gender. Women were more likely to vote in favor of a referendum compared with men; more than 55 percent said they would support one, compared to about 50 percent for men. More noticable was the difference between ages. Roughly 65 percent of interviewees in the age group from 18 to 44 would favor a referendum. Less than 60 percent of those 45 to 64 would support the referendum. Little more than 40 percent of interviewees 65 and older said they would support such a referendum.

One of the most disapointing results for the school board was that support was strongest among those least likely to vote. More than 55 percent of very active voters favored a referendum. More than 50 percent of active voters supported one and almost 65 percent of less active or new voters said they would support a referendum.

In reaction to the findings on voter mobilization, Dennis Dieser, the head of TEAM (Together Education Achieves More), said he is hopeful that more can be done to inform the public of a referendum if it is put on the ballot.

&uot;Our whole goal is that we need to get people to get out and vote. From the past referendum it looks like we need more of the families to be aware of the situation and what’s going on, and inform them that they need to get out and vote,&uot; he said. &uot;We hope we can get a lot of positive support.&uot;

Survey Results

How respondents rated the district’s quality of education: 12.7% Excellent, 35% Above average, 39.7% Average, 2.3% Below average, 0.4% Poor

Level of support among different groups, by age: 18 to 44, 61%; 45 to 64, 59%; 65 and over, 42%

Parents vs. non-parents: Parents, 69%; Non-parents, 52%

Level of voting participation: Very active, 55%; Active, 52%; Less active, 64%

Gender: Men, 51%; Women, 56%

&045;Source: School district-sponsored survey; overall margin of error 5.5 percent.