School district: Cheaper way to do survey
July 3, 2008 · Updated 9:50 PM
I have been following the actions of the local school board in its repeated attempts to pass a school bond issue that local residents don't seem to want. As a professional marketing executive, any school board that spent $74,000 on a facilities survey and proposes to spend $10,000 on a survey of an entire school district, should be subject to close scrutiny.
Concerning the latest proposed survey, both the cost and proposed methodology are outside the bounds of accepted marketing research practices.
A random sample of 250 households will yield maybe 25-30 responders from a telephone survey. Based on the total universe in the school district, is this a large enough sample size to be statistically significant? Also, there is no way to guarantee the accuracy of the sample in reflecting the demographics and psychographics of the market universe since random samples from phone books tend to exclude the lower and upper end of the income scale. Plus, phone book addresses are 8-10 percent non-deliverable from the time the books are distributed, and that figure increases over time until the next book is delivered.
If a survey is needed to verify that residents cannot afford to have their taxes increased, the board should take advantage of local resources in conducting the survey. Preparing the research instrument and selecting a statistically valid sample of residents would be a good class project for the local community college marketing 101 class. Or, any recent marketing grad could create a credible survey that would collect basic demographic information and pose questions that would measure the intensity of a responder's feelings toward items related to the bond issue.
The back-end analysis does not require any sophisticated multivariate analysis. A simple cross tabulation is all that is required. A high school student with a knowledge of MS Excel, or a psych major with SAS or SPSS analytical software could do a credible job for a few hundred dollars.
Publishing the findings involves a word processor and the school board's high-speed Xerox.
If the people I've used for marketing research came to me with a project like the one proposed by the school board, they would be looking for work in another field.
I have been considering Oak Harbor as an ideal locale for me when I retire. However, having a school board that is able to squander taxpayers money without effective checks and balances detracts greatly from an otherwise highly desirable community.
Joe King, Jr.
Elk Grove Village, Ill.