Aurora residents would likely vote to pay more in taxes to repair existing buildings and build new ones despite having mixed feelings about the academically struggling Aurora Public Schools system — a new survey found.
Nearly two-thirds of voters in a telephone poll commissioned by the district said they would support raising property taxes by 65 cents per month for every $100,000 of their home’s value. The extra revenue would help repair school roofs, infuse classrooms with technology and build two new schools that would serve students in pre-school through eighth grade.
Support for a $350 million bond, which would raises property taxes by $2.30 per month for every $100,000 a home is worth, was lower at 43 percent.
At the same time, the survey found lukewarm support for what’s actually happening inside Aurora’s school buildings. Fewer than half of the voters surveyed feel Superintendent Rico Munn is doing a good job, and they also were split on a proposed policy to pay teachers more at some schools that have high turnover.
The survey’s results, which the school board will hear more about at its Tuesday meeting, will likely be used to influence some of the district’s most important policy discussions and decisions, especially whether to ask voters next fall to approve a tax hike.
Like many school districts along the Front Range, Aurora has struggled in recent years with a growing at-risk student body. Nearly every APS campus is at enrollment capacity, even after the district built a new school on Airport Road. Alternatives to a bond being floated include buying more mobile classrooms, shifting to a year-round school calendar and taking out a private loan to build another new school.
Among the survey’s other findings:
- Slightly more than 25 percent of voters believe Aurora Public Schools has gotten worse during the last three to five years.
- 42 percent of voters believe Superintendent Munn is doing a good or excellent job at running the school district.
- Nearly two-thirds of APS parents surveyed believe APS is doing a good or excellent job at meeting the needs of the district’s diverse student population.
- But only 32 percent of parents believe the district has enough “innovation solutions” to boost student achievement.
- 49 percent of voters believe teachers in all Aurora schools should be paid the same.
The poll of 500 likely voters was conducted between Sept. 8 and Sept. 16. The survey has a 4.3 percent margin of error.
APS is one of about a dozen school districts on the state’s watch list for low student achievement. If the district does not improve quickly, it risks losing its accreditation from the state.
In an effort to stave off state involvement, the district is launching an ambitious reform plan that would free Aurora Central High School and other schools in the Original Aurora neighborhood from some district and state policies. Those schools, in what is being called an ACTION Zone, would also have more flexibility around their budget, staff and curriculum.
An immediate lesson the district learned from the poll: it hasn’t done enough to communicate its plans for its struggling schools.
“We have not communicated a lot about our innovation plans and what we’re looking at as far as the ACTION Zone Plan and that is something we do plan to do,” said Rebecca Herbst, the district’s bond communication specialist.