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New Rochelle School District Shares Results of Budget Survey: #1 Issues is Class Size

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New Rochelle School District Shares Results of Budget Survey: #1 Issues is Class Size

February 13, 2012 - 20:24
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Screen Shot 2012 02 14 at 9 19 52 AMNEW ROCHELLE, NY – The City School District of New Rochelle and Board of Education report today that close to 60% of those who completed the second annual School Budget Survey feel that preserving current class size is most critical.

UPDATE: The district is keeping their Budget Survey open for a few more days. It takes about 4 minutes and is incredibly fun so click here to take it now.

Those who took the survey were given the choice of deeming certain programs or aspects of the educational system 1) Essential and critical, 2) Very important, 3) Good to have, but not essential and 4) Not important enough to preserve in a time of fiscal constraint.

57.4% of survey respondents deem class size as essential and critical to the school district’s mission.

Other findings from the survey reveal:

  • 536 respondents in all completed the survey: Nearly 75% were parents or guardians of a current school age student while just over 21% were community members without a child in school.
  • 56.4% feel that preserving AP Classes and other advanced/honors classes is essential and critical.
  • Having up‐to‐date technology in the classrooms was most critical to 46.8% of respondents.
  • Tracking almost identical to last year, 77.5% of respondents have been regular voters in school
    board elections in the last 10 years.

    When asked what motivates them to go to the polls for a school budget vote:

    • 52.7% said they are most motivated by the desire to maintain a high quality school system.
    • Nearly 21% said they are most motivated by the potential for their taxes to be raised or lowered.

    The district added a new question to the survey this year in an attempt to find out the extent of awareness about the property tax cap that will go into effect next year. Results are as follows:

    • The greatest number of respondents at 38.7% said they know about the tax cap and realize it is going to require that choices be made.
    • li>31.4% said they have heard something about it but don’t know specifics

      li>20% said they fully understand the cap and its ramifications

    “It was our belief even before the survey results came in that as part of the budget process this year, we are going to need to spend some time educating the public about the tax cap and the impact it will have on the school district as well as the community at large,” said Richard Organisciak, Superintendent of Schools. “The results of the survey certainly demonstrate that our thinking was correct and we will focus on covering this topic in the weeks ahead.”

    The district and Board of Education will begin a series of live broadcasts and webcasts of Community Budget Forums on cable and the district website tonight at 7pm from the library at New Rochelle High School.

    “We are delighted that once again, so many members of the New Rochelle community took the time to fill out the survey,” said Chrisanne Petrone, President, Board of Education. “The Board looks forward to being further engaged with the community in the school budget process as our work on the 2012‐2013 school budget moves forward.”

    Subsequent live broadcasts of School Budget Review Sessions will take place on March 8th, 13th and 20th from the library at New Rochelle High School. The events will all begin at 7:00pm and will be viewable on NRED‐TV at Cablevision Channel 77, Verizon Channel 30 and on the District’s website at www.nred.org.

There are 3 Comments

It would have been a more information gathering survey if a box was provided for additional comments. I would like to have been able to check off more than one box in relations to question 9. I would have also liked to state that my children attended and graduated from the New Rochelle public schools. I guess the school district is not that interested.

On the one hand, at least they are soliciting the information. On the other hand, reporting the data from survey as if the data has integrity is misleading. I have written about this before.

The only "gate" on filling out this survey multiple times is an IP address. That means that it is very easy for a person to "vote" three times -- work computer, home computer, smartphone. It is also very easy for a small number of people, acting in concert, to game the system. Who might do that? The union, PTA. With about 600 people having voted, it would only take a few dozen people voting a few times each to distort the outcomes.

The first question has 9 items to be rated on a Likert Scale (rank something on a scale of 1 to 5, for example). These items are not like items. For example, how can you group something massive like spending on computers or teachers (i.e. class room size) and something small like electives in psychology or middle school athletics. Further, the data is going to be skewed because any student, parent or union member will be directly impacted by the class room size issue and see it as "essential" whereas a much smaller percentage are impacted by Pre-K or middle school athletics. I can tell you know how the vote will turn out just based on the framing of the question.

There is a self-selection issue here as well. Parents, students and union members are far more likely to vote simply because they are more likely to be aware that they survey exists since they are in the communications loop for the district. Even though they are a minority of residents they will will be disproportionately represented in the survey (in fact the initial report is that just 21% said they did not have students enrolled in school).

There are plenty of things left out -- do we need so many administrators? do we need security guards in the elementary schools (most districts do not have them), do we need a full-time M.D. and nurse practitioner to serve as administrator of school nurses? (most districts don't), etc.

A web survey is going to significantly undercount the elderly, minorities, lower-income persons. That is is only in English created barriers for our 5,000 Spanish speakers.

As a scientific survey, this web survey fails on just about every level imaginable. It is the same sort of survey done by CNN after a presidential debate. Ever wonder why Ron Paul gets 80% of the web vote for surveys like that? In fact, the networks have dropped them because the results became absurd.

A real survey would entail a random, representative sample of all New Rochelle residents. It would ask questions that get to the heart of important issues.

The simplest way to explain that is to consider how many questions on last year's web survey were about cutting transportation services? The answer is "none". And what was the biggest issue last year? The answer is "transportation". Specifically, out of district busing for private/parochial school students.

I also agree that the responses to the comment boxes ought to be made public. Further, the survey should be independently audited. The idea that the district is going to count votes and then tell you they "won" is more than a bit self-serving.

Robert Cox's picture

This is the problem.

The district puts out the press release and it is repeated by the Journal News without comment or qualification. The paper forwards along the idea that the survey is taking the pulse "of the community".

It is not doing that for the reasons described above. It is certainly not the case that the majority of New Rochelle residents believe that class size is the most pressing issue. Not even addressed by the survey is the overall level of spending by the district and the level of taxation to support that spending.

A better way to look at the data would be to weight the 80% of parents who voted proportional to the number of households in New Rochelle with children in the public schools. That 59% figure might then drop to 20%.

The number one issue in a real survey would certainly be the size of the school tax.

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