Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Does having a school with high foundation contributions encourage residents to vote against tax increases?

In discussions about Portland Public School foundations I sometimes see this assertion.  Often it's part of a broader critique of foundations and their impact on equity.  The claim is that foundations don't just increase inequity, but actively harm students in other neighborhoods because parents in "semi-privatized" communities don't support public taxes.

For kicks, I got shape files and a vote abstract from Multnomah County and charted it.  Below is a heat chart for 2011's measure 26-122.  This is a property tax levy specific to Portland Public Schools, it passed with 58% of the vote.  The red indicates low support and green indicates high.  The labeling is based on decimals, 0.5 = 50% to 60%, 0.4 = 40% to 50%, etc.

I've marked with red dots the rough location of the top 4 elementary schools and K-8's based on fundraising.  What do I see?

I see 3 of the 4 schools are located in precincts where the levy passed, and are surrounded by precincts with similar support.  I also see a vivid geographic pattern: the inner city neighborhoods supported the levy more than outer neighborhoods.  This pattern dominates the story of which precincts supported the levy and which did not, I don't see any correlation with the location of a high-foundation school.

Below is the same chart for 2010's measure 66, a statewide tax increase.  Same thing:
I don't think the presence or absence of a high-foundation school has any effect on voter support of taxes.  Saving this for the next time I see that claim pop up.

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