28 April 2010

School budget maps

The recent controversial round of budget votes in New Jersey have been noted with ample coverage of how over 50% of the state's districts voted down their proposed budgets.  Maybe I missed it, but I've heard much less about where it happened.  After poking around I found the results, district by district, on the NJ Department of Education website.  Mapping them was a bit tricky because some places are in more than one district - maybe one for grammar schools and another for high schools.  We didn't have to worry about the VoTech districts, which have also complicated some other mapping projects, because they weren't on the election results list.

Here is a quick map made from the data.  Whenever there was a large district that contained (or overlapped) several smaller districts, I dropped the larger in favor of the smaller - that gave us more results to look at.  But if you like the larger districts (like Lenape Regional), you might want to hit the DoE site for the details.

It looks like a fair number of the middle suburbs (Mendham, Chatham, West Windsor) passed while outer suburbs (Hillsborough, Jefferson, and Rockaway) and rural towns generally rejected the budgets. 

That first map treated a town that passed by one vote (Tewksbury) the same as a town that passed by hundreds.  The next one looks instead at strength of passage, comparing the Yes/No votes as a ratio.  Strength of passage didn't have as obvious a spatial pattern; no bands of strength or weakness seemed obvious.  Hammonton passed it strongly while its next door neighbor, Washington rejected it very strongly (5448-659).  It is interesting to see how
But it looks like size might matter.  Districts whose jurisdiction are less than 5 sq mi tended to pass the budgets while larger districts didn't.  So maybe, in this case, size really matters.  Is it possible that in a smaller town people are more familiar with the school?  Or that in larger towns budgets include some noticeable bureaucratic inefficiencies? 

The other measure of size that might matter is the actual population (or combine them and look at density).  Here at the end of the semester it is hard to squeeze in anything extra, but if I can I hope to try to match up some populations numbers with the districts.  It would be interesting to see if there is a similar trend.  All apologies to our friends in political science, but sometimes it can be hard to let data rest unmapped.

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