After East Idaho voters denied two multi-million dollar school financing measures, district leaders are reaching out to them for answers. 

And they’re reflecting on outreach efforts that, while extensive, still fell short. 

Both districts are starting with surveys — a tactic they both employed months ago before deciding to put measures on the ballot. 

In Pocatello/Chubbuck’s case, patrons were leery of a large bond from the start. Results from a June survey, which about 3,000 patrons participated in, showed that:

  • About 40% supported a $25 million bond
  • About 30% supported $75 million bond

And when it came down to it, 56% supported the district’s bond on Election Day — far from the required 66.67% supermajority threshold (about 11,650 voters turned out). The $45 million bond would’ve improved two high schools, including one that was severely damaged in a fire last April. 

Pocatello/Chubbuck leaders want to know why voters denied the measure, so on Thursday, they once again sought feedback via a survey. 

Shelley is doing the same.

Its $67.8 million bond to build a high school failed with just 48%, which shocked Superintendent Chad Williams. 

A prior survey, which about 400-500 patrons took, had indicated strong support: “They overwhelmingly said build the biggest school you can and do it right now,” Williams told trustees at a board meeting on Thursday. 

But on Election Day, about 1,950 people voted on Shelley’s measure — the highest turnout the community’s seen for a school election in the past decade. 

“I had no idea what those 1,500 people thought and somehow I’ve got to tap into that,” Williams said. “I don’t have the solution, and that’s the problem.”

Shelley Board Chair Cole Clinger questioned the validity of surveys  “because it was way off the sentiment of the community.”

But there doesn’t seem to be a surefire way to reach patrons. 

Pocatello and Shelley trustees both expressed a need to better educate patrons on school funding measures in the future. But district employees catalogued long lists of outreach attempts. 

Williams counted 16 ways he’d communicated about the bond with his community members.  

And Pocatello/Chubbuck gave 65 community presentations on the bond, Courtney Fisher, Pocatello/Chubbuck’s Director of Communications, told trustees at a Tuesday meeting. 

And that was in addition to other efforts, including distributing tens of thousands of informational postcards; creating a bond election informational video; and participating in a local parade to pass out information. 

“When we had the opportunity to dialogue about the bond, it seemed to go over much better,” Fisher said. “It’s just finding a way to do that in a broader capacity where we can have those two-way conversations.”

Pocatello’s survey is available here and submissions will be accepted through Nov. 26. Results will be shared with trustees at a special meeting on Nov. 28. 

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