The concept of a voted Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) is unique to Iowa education. It allows school districts to raise the local levy to fund project and improvements related to facilities, buildings and grounds. In most other states, districts may need to go to referendum to fund these items.
While a PPEL vote tends to be much less intensive than a referendum or bond issue, it still provides an opportunity to school leaders to communicate and engage their community members in a conversation about the future of their local schools. We suggest making the most of an upcoming PPEL by informing community members of what an approved PPEL would cover and how it would ultimately help students.
Below are some quick tips for communicating before an Iowa PPEL vote:
1) Communicate early and often
We typically find it’s important to over-communicate, especially about the district’s needs, in advance of a PPEL vote. This can be a challenge, as many people in your community will first hear about the district’s needs very late in the process, even if you have done a good job of communicating throughout.
2) Provide detail
While these levies are often approved, relatively few community members truly know what a PPEL is. To clear up any confusion, provide background information on the purpose of a PPEL and exactly how your school district will use the funds. If possible, explain the projects you will be able to move forward on if the PPEL were to be approved.
3) Inform, but don’t advocate
School leaders should not allow their PPEL communications efforts to move into the realm of advocacy. It is generally acceptable to encourage community members to vote and ensure they have accurate information about the needs, process and solution before election day. But must never tell people how to vote or campaign for a vote in favor of the levy.
4) Use multiple communication channels
Use all the tools at your disposal when communicating before an Iowa PPEL vote. Send a letter or email home to parents, post updates to social media and send out a news release when the school board approves the PPEL. Write a guest article for your local newspaper and meet with local community groups to share information.
5) Focus on building trust
Communicating before an Iowa PPEL vote is great way to gain trust in the community. This happens by being as truthful as possible, by answering questions as honestly as we can and by operating with a high level of integrity. A successful levy vote not only results in a passage, but it also builds trust between a school district and its community.
If your district has a PPEL vote on its radar screen, do some planning about how you will communicate ahead of time. Through good, transparent communication, you can help tell your district’s story and give your community members greater buy in to your local schools.