School referendum count-down – barely a month to go

The days are ticking down to the Nov. 2 election and the school-funding referendum for the Monroe County Community School Corp. – 33 is the count-down number on the “Vote Yes on #2” website.

But it remains hard to get a read on how the community is leaning on the referendum, and whether supporters or opponents of the 14-cent property tax increase will be more likely to vote.

At a public forum last week at Bloomington High School South, at least some people were champing at the bit to support the campaign; and they sounded a little frustrated at the lack of opportunity.

Questions from the audience of about 50 people included: When can we get yard signs? Can we make T-shirts with slogans? Is there a pro-referendum Facebook group? Can we get kids together to make pro-education posters? How do we contribute to the PAC that’s funding the effort? (You can donate online).

On the other hand, there were questions that sounded like ready-make excuses to vote no: Why didn’t the school board lay off administrators to cut spending? Why didn’t the teachers’ union agree to bigger wage sacrifices? Why were administrator contracts extended?

The MCCSC assembled an impressive group of respected citizens and people with political experience to serve on the referendum steering committee. And the committee co-chairs are knowledgeable retired education officials: former MCCSC Superintendent Harmon Baldwin, former Indiana State Teachers Association leader Ron Jensen and former Indiana School Boards Association chief Jack Peterson.

The effort got a boost when the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce announced its support. And MCCSC Superintendent J.T. Coopman has been promoting the referendum tirelessly at school open-houses, service club meetings and a guest column in the Bloomington Herald-Times (subscription required).

“This goes beyond the walls of the school district,” Coopman said at the BHS South forum. “This is a community issue.”

The apparent late start for fund-raising and active campaigning, the absence of yard signs barely a month before the election, etc., are enough to worry referendum supporters.

It’s always an uphill battle to get people to vote to raise their own property taxes. But this is an off-year election with no inspiring races on the ballot, so a low turnout is likely. Maybe last-minute canvassing and an organized get-out-the-vote effort will push the referendum over the top.

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