Why Voters Said Yes and No on the School Bond

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017, 8:10 am
Ann Nichols

As election day approached, we at ELi decided to find out how East Lansing citizens voted or were planning to vote on the sole ballot issue, a bond to finance the demolition, rebuilding, and/or upgrading of the East Lansing Public Schools’ six elementary school buildings. We now know that the bond issue passed. A total of 2,783 voters (51.3%) said “yes” and 2,638, (48.7%) said “no."

When we set up our survey, we were curious not only about how readers might vote, but about their reasoning. So we asked two questions in the open, anonymous survey, starting with: How are you voting, or how did you vote, on the ELPS school bond?

A total of 204 people answered before we closed the survey, with 90 votes each for “yes” and “no” votes (44.1% each). A total of 16 respondents (7.8%) indicated they were uncertain of how they would vote. Seven respondents said they were not eligible to vote, and one person said he or she was eligible but would not vote.

When asked to explain their reasoning for their vote, “yes” voters consistently opined that it is time to take action on fixing the elementary buildings. Some enthusiastically approved the plans presented by the Board of Education, while others said they didn’t like everything about the proposed plans but preferred to vote “yes” and do something now rather than wait for a “perfect” scenario.

Many “yes” voters wrote about the need to “move forward” and address the poor conditions in the current buildings. They spoke of the benefits to the community of more modern buildings, including increased property values. A “no” vote was characterized several times by “yes” voters as a vote against the schools, schoolchildren, and the community.

Those voting against the bond proposal frequently cited already-high taxation levels in East Lansing, their opposition to the reopening of Red Cedar Elementary, and the related opinion that the District doesn’t have enough students to support six elementary buildings. There was also concern that the plans were not sufficiently firm, that it was unclear exactly how the $94 million dollars of bond money would be spent, and that the Board had not been adequately transparent with voters about the spending of bond funds.

Several “no” voters also referred to the failure of the Board to disclose to the public that they had discussed with MSU the possibility of a joint Pre-K in the now-shuttered Red Cedar building if the bond election was successful.

You can see all written responses to ELi’s survey on the bond issue here.

You can also see the Vote No on ELPS Bond Facebook page here and see the Yes for Excellent Schools-East Lansing Facebook page here.

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