Variables influencing the successful passage of school bond referenda as identified by selected stakeholders in Texas
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School districts that successfully pass a school bond election after a failed bond election offer a unique opportunity to investigate variables involved in both the failure and subsequent successful passage of a bond referenda (Hickey, 2006). This in-depth qualitative case study of a representative school district that experienced success after a prior failure was used to develop a greater understanding of the variables associated with overcoming negative sentiment toward school bond passage, as well as update, enhance, elaborate, and clarify previous quantitative and qualitative work in the field. This study examined the participants’ views to establish what the variables were that affected the outcome of bond elections that “statistical analysis alone cannot capture” (Bowers et al., 2010, p. 417). This qualitative study answered three questions: (a) What variables contributed to the failure of a school bond election? (b) What variables contributed to the success of a school bond election? (c) What relationships existed among these variables with regard to selected characteristics of a school district? The overarching research paradigm was a qualitative single-case study in which artifacts and interviews were the primary data analyzed. This study investigated one representative district in Texas that had a successful bond election after prior failure, using a purposive, theoretical sampling technique from the subset of districts who failed and then passed a subsequent bond referenda between May 2013 and May 2017 in Texas using bond data from the Texas Comptroller’s Office. The findings revealed that the school district leaders and the school bond referendum election process must be responsive to changing community environments and voter preferences. Key strategies that were used in successfully passing a school bond referendum included: an extensive pre-bond needs assessment process; securing strong consulting expertise to support a comprehensive school bond election planning process; mapping the political environment and involving key community influencers; a focus on effective leadership recruitment and development of parent and community leaders; substantive input and involvement from a representative group of stakeholders throughout the process, especially parents and campus staff; a clear, appealing bond proposal; and acknowledgement and recognition of losses caused by the change process. The study contributed new knowledge to the body of research on successful school bond referenda. This study also offered new insights into key strategies that enable leaders in public school districts and communities to be able to succeed in school bond referendum elections in the future.
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