ESD 112 is well-known for helping districts communicate the complexities of levy funding and clear up questions that voters have. The work must be challenging.
Sharing information about levies is challenging communications work, but it’s one of our specialties. It involves complex requirements and specific rules about what can and cannot be said. The information must be shared in a factual and neutral way, without persuasive language.
We must be experts in presenting complex information as easily digestible bites for public consumption. The underlying challenge to crafting these answers is that a district can’t ask for a yes vote. While the funding truly is critical, districts must let voters decide for themselves whether it’s important enough to fill the gap left by what isn’t provided in the state’s basic funding for their students’ education.
What does ‘easily digestible bites’ mean?
Graphically, it means breaking down financial data into infographics and charts. These can range from simple pie charts to graphs that are easy to read but take a lot of time to think through how best to present in very small spaces.
Yes, and the financial data can be complicated and detailed. Just getting the data itself can be a challenge. It requires careful communication between the superintendent, fiscal staff, the board and even the state to coordinate the information, render it, and share it for all to review for accuracy and understanding until all parties agree. Once we have the information, then the important work begins of determining the best way to present it, so that it’s clear to the public.
Example Small District Dual Language Flyer
Design sounds like a key piece to the puzzle. You must be expert puzzlers.
Ha! Yes, I would say we are strategic design experts —and they are quick, too. We have to analyze and interpret information, then render it quickly. This can be a challenge for our staff because we begin the messaging process in November and December. We are often juggling many levy projects during the few short weeks between Thanksgiving break and the longer winter break just weeks later. We need the messaging, design, review, and final approval to be complete before districts close for the holiday break because mailers need to go to the printer at least 10 days before the ballots are set to hit mailboxes in January.
We rely on our district clients as valuable partners in gathering the needed information well ahead of the election and helping us to understand what their community really values. We are often reaching out to districts in September and October––or even earlier––to get them thinking about upcoming levy renewals and planning messaging that is factual, neutral, yet important to their community.
Have you ever helped a district with an emergency levy measure?
Many times. Most recently, we assisted a large district last spring when they decided to go back out for an April vote after their February ballot measure failed. We got to work quickly putting together messaging and materials that clearly illustrated all the services they would be unable to provide without the levy funding. Programs including special education and music were on the line. Another important message shared by the district was the opportunity they had to receive matching funds from the state if the measure was supported by taxpayers. It was heartening to watch on the sidelines as their community got involved to rally support for their students.
We provide support for both big and small school districts. Communicating the importance of levy funds is a need across the board. In fact, utilizing our team’s expertise and knowledge, we supported communications and design for as many as 20 school districts during one recent election season. Many of those districts have less than 1,000 students and rely heavily on local funding to meet the needs of their students and community. Local support for schools is so important when it comes to school funding. I cannot emphasize that enough! And building community support starts well before levy communications begin.
Example Large District EP&O Replacement Levy Mailer
Example Small District EP&O Replacement Levy Mailer
It sounds like the importance of district funding measures extend beyond the actual levy communications.
Absolutely. Every social media post, video, newsletter, and school event helps communicate the good work happening in our schools. It is also important to help the community understand what programs and services the levy funds provide, so they can see a direct return on their investment. When the community is aware of that work, it builds pride in our schools and trust in school districts as good stewards of public education funds. That trust is critical, along with clear levy communications, for any school ballot measure.
Exactly. The importance of communications doesn’t just go away when there isn’t a funding measure coming up. Good district communications pay dividends back to the district, to the schools, to the students, and ultimately to the entire community.
Thinking of running a levy or bond?
Learn how our team can support informational communications for the initiative.