Poll Says Delay Los Altos School District Bond Measure till 2014

EMC Research's Ruth Bernstein
Written by lalahpolitico


EMC research found that support of the Los Altos School District bond measure rose 7% among LASD parents since the April poll, but not at all among the rest of the community. Voter support still does not meet the 55% needed bar. The EMC Research analysts recommend waiting till the June 2014 election. In the meantime, in order to increase support by 2014,  the analysts say that the district needs to create a firm and specific plan about what the money will buy and also to present and test that plan with the broader community, not just LASD parents.

EMC Research's Ruth Bernstein says support rose from April to July with the new messaging only among the 25% of voters who are LASD parents, not among the broader community


The tracking poll phone interviews were conducted July 5 -9, 2012, reaching 402 LASD voters. With n=402, the margin of error is 4.89%.

Why the Low Voter Support?

Sara LaBatt of EMC Research provided analysis of the successful parcel tax measure in 2011 as compared to the unfavorable Los Altos School District bond situation today.

  • In 2011, the voters were supportive of a lower rather than a higher parcel tax amount.  Now a lower tax amount doesn’t  “buy” any more support.  Price is not the issue for the new bond.
  • In 2011, the district had a clear plan for the use of the parcel tax revenue. Today the specifics of a plan have not been finalized for the school bond revenue.
  • In 2011, it was a special election mail-in only ballot, and 72% of LASD parents polled were supportive.  Today it is a general election, and only 63% of parents are supportive.  There will always be higher voter turnout of the general community in a general election as compared to a mail-in only election.
  • In 2011 the poll showed  the community supported the district’s stated priorites — core academics….  Today the highest district priority – providing space for a school – has only low support.


The VIDEO of the EMC Presentation

This 45 minute video captures the EMC Research speakers and their slides, as well as several minutes of LASD board member discussion. The poll results run from the 0 to 25 minute mark. At 25 minutes Sara LaBatt of EMC Research presents an interesting analysis of why this bond measure is so much more challenging than the successful 2011 parcel tax measure. Then the LASD Board makes comments. Lalapolitico suggests you might want to start at the 25 minute mark. You can can the statistical slide deck on the LASD web site.


Drill Down

The full set of slides is available for download at the LASD web site here. Below are selected slides to help you more quickly digest the most important, most interesting points.


In July more people got the message there was a need for a 10th site



Our community is unique in having such a high percentage of people — 41% — “aware of an issue concerning LASD that they have seen in the news”.  This is a top of mind, unaided response. It’s very unusual for so many people in a town to be tuned to an issue.




The July poll tried out new messaging — avoid neighborhood schools



Support at the start of the phone interview barely exceeded 55%, but  with the 5% margin of error it did not pass the threshold



The refined ballot language in the July pool  may have boosted the initial support in the right direction compared to the April poll



The April poll uses Prop 39 language about “reasonably equivalent facilities” which implies possible SHARING, whereas the July poll uses ordinary vernacular and says “provide each school with its own site”



As with the April poll, the July poll shows that people dislike building a new school for Bullis Charter




Usually one can “buy” support for a bond by having a lower tax. But not with this bond measure.



The new July message about the growth in enrollment by 1000 this decade is found quite compelling



The new message about avoiding closing a neighborhood school is about as compelling as the one about 1000 more students over the decade



You might think LASD parents with kids currently in the system would be more anxious than others to avoid closing a neighborhood school…but they aren’t



Yet after hearing the somewhat compelling positive messages, in the aggregate nobody changes their vote



Only a minority find the negative messages compelling



Yet after the negative messages, some people do vote more negatively. The vote is solidly beneath the 55% bar now.



The red 55% line shows that in July — as in April poll — there is insufficient support for the bond measure



Although 55% are a Yes, the soft yes means one shouldn’t count on it.  Too risky.



EMC Research's Sarah LaBatt says set milestones to create a specific plan to engage all voters


To reiterate, the EMC Research recommendation is to wait till June 2014 to vote on the bond measure.  The school district should do the following work before Fall of 2013…create a plan for addressing the growing space needs (buy a site if that is the plan)…create a specific capital plan for enhancing the existing sites (engage an architect) …engage with the whole community, not just LASD parents.

During the meeting Mark Goines said the recommendation from EMC was the right one. Yet the decision to NOT proceed with the bond was not made at the meeting. It could be made conclusively at a scheduled August 6 meeting of the board. Mr. Goines asked Superintendent Baier about timing…the last day to register the bond for the ballot is August 10…the next court hearing about LASD-BCS litigation  is not till August 15.



After the April poll, the district did do frantic messaging outreach, but only to LASD parents.  There were committees of parents here, there, everywhere.  The channel of communication seemed to be PTA lists, comments on and some Facebook group.  There was no apparent outreach to the general community who don’t communicate in those ways.  In fact, an important voting block – seniors, and near seniors ( the boomers) were alienated by an idea popular with one parent group — namely the idea of handing over Hillview – a important senior center – to LASD.

Also, after the April poll results and the mediated “tentative agreement,” the board seemed to actually be trying to shop for real estate…but the effort seemed slap dash…and seems to have been abandoned entirely now as the board waits for the August 15 court hearing they instigated by reneging on the tentative agreement.  They hope the sword of school closure/conversion by the charter school will be sheathed by the court.



About the author


Norma Schroder is an economics & market researcher by trade and ardent independent journalist, photographer and videographer by avocation. Enthralled by the growth of the tech industry over the decades, she became fascinated with the business of local politics only in the past several years.