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Residents Give School District High Marks

Survey shows residents approve of educators; concerned about taxes.

Results from a recent phone survey of area residents about South Washington County School District 833 show those living in the district generally approve of how schools in the district are going about their business and managing their budgets.

The survey, which was conducted by Decision Resources Ltd. July 13-29, randomly sampled 400 households in District 833 and asked the respondents to give their opinions on an array of educational policies and initiatives. The results were outlined at last week's school board workshop.

Eighty-eight percent of respondents gave the district a positive rating; 58 percent said it was “good,” with 30 percent describing it as “excellent.”

Those surveyed said what they liked most about the district was the teachers, education provided to their children and strong academics.

“The 88 percent approval rating is truly a solid rating for teachers in this district,” said Bill Morris with Decision Resources.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, when asked what they liked least about the district, 15 percent said, “poor district spending,” which was followed closely by “high taxes” at 11 percent. But on the same question, 23 percent of people surveyed said they were “unsure” about what they liked least about the district.

In comparison to many other school districts across the metro, South Washington County Schools is doing very well with the resources allotted to it, Morris said.

However, like just about every other district in the metro and numerous school districts across the nation—they have to deal with a general disapproval for raising taxes to fund educational initiatives.

“You have a moderately hostile tax district here,” Morris said.

He went on to say that the “moderately hostile” description actually isn’t as severe as numerous districts statewide, where the attitude toward raising taxes to pay for education can be described as “very hostile.”

To illustrate those statements, Morris said 62 percent of residents living in District 833 view their property taxes as “high.” However, when that same question is asked in regards to just the school district’s portion of the property tax levy, 51 percent of respondents said they viewed it as high, 40 percent said it was average and 10 percent said they were unsure.

Morris presented numerous other survey results to the school board members about residents’ views on the board’s job performance, their positions on referendums, acceptable tax increases and other aspects of education before the conclusion of the meeting, and board members lauded Morris and Decision Resources for their work.

“I find this information to be extremely valuable,” Superintendent Mark Porter said.

Of the multitude of schools districts Decision Resources surveys, Morris 833 was one of the best.

“In general, the way people view the district can be described as exceptional,” he said. “Over two-thirds give it a positive rating, and we’re not seeing that in very many other districts right now.”

Morris said the non-response level to the survey was 3.5 percent, which is very low with surveys of this type. Most of those selected stayed on the phone with a surveyor for an average of 20 minutes, with 5 percent of respondents staying on the line for over an hour to give their opinions about a range of education-related topics.

School board member Ron Kath asked Morris if the company took cell phones into account when performing the survey, and Morris said Decision Resources was able to obtain a block of cell phone numbers from local phone companies.

To see the entire survey, click here. 

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