Indiana districts see mixed results on 13 school referendum requests

Voters across Indiana, weighing school referendum requests from 10 districts in Tuesday’s elections, approved seven measures and turned down six others.

Two affluent north suburbs in central Indiana notched victories: Zionsville won a pair of referendums after a campaign centered on maintaining academic excellence in a growing district, and Carmel passed the state’s first school safety referendum.

But other suburbs came up short. Center Grove schools failed to raise $25 million for safety features, such as live monitoring of building cameras, additional school safety officers, and more mental health supports for students.

Meanwhile, a vocal group of opponents managed to defeat two tax increase requests from Danville Community Schools, with residents rejecting both asks.

“Our community spoke decisively to not support the referenda, and we respect the outcome,” Danville schools Superintendent Tracey Shafer said in an emailed statement Tuesday night. “The referenda results will make education look different in our community, but we will continue to dedicate ourselves to providing a quality education for Danville children.”

In Indianapolis, Lawrence Township schools won a $191 million referendum to expand and renovate its schools.

In the past decade, Indiana districts have made more than 100 requests to voters to increase property taxes to generate more funding for schools. Prior to this election, about two-thirds of those efforts were successful, according to a state report, with cities and suburbs more likely to pass referendums than rural areas.

Districts have various reasons for requesting additional public funding: Some say they need more money to simply cover basic operational costs, and others seek to upgrade aging facilities. In recent years, some districts have also looked to referendums to fund salary increases for teachers or increase school safety amid school shooting concerns.

Here a results from Tuesday night. A more detailed report on each district’s request can be found here.

Referendums that passed (vote tallies as of 9:30 p.m. Tuesday):

  • MSD Lawrence Township’s $191 million construction referendum, with 68.77% of votes
  • Carmel Clay Schools’ $40 million safety referendum, with 68.5% of votes
  • Hamilton Community Schools’ $13.8 million operational referendum, with 70% of votes
  • Scott County School District 1’s $20 million construction referendum, with 55.4% of votes
  • Vigo County Schools’ $7 million operational referendum, with 54.1% of votes
  • Zionsville Community Schools’ $89 million construction referendum, with 76.4% of votes, and its $64 million operational referendum, with 79.6% of votes

Referendums that failed:

  • Center Grove Community Schools’ $24.8 million operational referendum, with 64.3% of voters opposing
  • Danville Community Schools’ $12.8 million operational referendum, with 66% of voters opposing, and its $53 million construction referendum, with 77% of voters opposing
  • Huntington County Community Schools’ $8 million operational referendum, with 50.3% of voters opposing, and its $68.48 million construction referendum, with 56.3% of voters opposing
  • Washington Community Schools’ $38 million construction referendum, with 61.3% of voters opposing.

Chalkbeat is a not-for-profit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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