Funding remains top school concern in survey, even before pandemic-related budget problems
Monday, June 22, 2020
Advocating for comprehensive, stable funding reform should remain a top OSBA priority, according to a recent survey of school board members and superintendents.
OSBA surveys its members approximately every four years, although the last one was in 2017. This year’s survey reached 247 school board members and superintendents from March 11 to May 1, just as schools were closing and distance learning was launched.
John Horvick, DHM Research director of client relations and political research, reported the survey’s findings to OSBA Board members Saturday. This type of survey is not designed for a statistically accurate representation of viewpoints but rather to give broad understanding of attitudes and opinions.
The survey was conducted before the coronavirus’s full budget impact was known. The Student Success Act and a $9 billion State School Fund had created hope for program increases unlike any seen in recent memory. Even so, budgeting issues remained a top concern for education leaders in the survey.
“It surprised me in light of the fact the Student Success Act had passed that that was still No. 1,” Horvick said.
The Student Success Act didn’t completely fix schools’ money needs, Horvick said, and OSBA remains seen as a primary advocate for education funding.
The survey was designed before the coronavirus outbreak took hold. It is meant to provide benchmark data and did not address COVID-19 directly.
When asked the importance of different issues in planning decisions, 97% of respondents ranked school budgets as somewhat or very important, about the same as last time. Horvick suggested, though, that a steep drop in the importance of local option levy campaigns could reflect some easing of budget concerns.
Horvick raised another result that could be indicative of current concerns: Nearly as important as budgets was a new option, students’ social and emotional needs, with 93% saying it is somewhat or very important.
Other high priorities include career and technical education, board-superintendent relations and implementation of the Student Success Act. Length of school year and class sizes fell significantly in importance.
Board governance was the top training topic respondents said they were interested in. Addressing equity issues, poverty and diversity – an option not offered in 2017 – followed closely behind.
In general, members expressed satisfaction with OSBA’s work, with “very satisfied” increasing from 52% to 57%. OSBA’s mean grade from respondents improved from 4.2 to 4.4.