Voters had a firm answer Nov. 6 to the Baker School District's $21 million bond request:

No, they said by an unmistakable 64-36 percent count.

But there was no place on the ballot where they could explain why they'd rejected the measure that would've paid for a new middle school.

It was especially surprising to school officials who, just a year earlier, had been encouraged when a similar proposal which sought $19.8 million for a middle and $1 million to repair other district schools had fallen short by a vote of just 52-48 percent.

Immediately after the latest vote, bond supporters were vowing to hoist another measure up the pole next year one even pointed to a district in Idaho that had endured 13 years of votes before finally passing a bond measure.

But when the school board starts talking about what to do next, our advice is as straightforward as the voters' answer was two weeks ago:

Go find out exactly why patrons rejected the measure before you do anything else.

Sure, you can argue that the vote was influenced by the unfortunate timing of higher property tax bills going out just before Election Day, or by the pain of never-ending increases in gas and energy prices.

Maybe it was the fact that this measure limited itself to addressing the middle school and didn't include any extra money for other buildings in the district.

We suppose it's even possible that some voters didn't fully understand the request that they really don't realize how badly dilapidated Baker Middle School has become.

Any of those explanations, though, would be sheer conjecture.

The fact is, school officials however hard the realization is to swallow need to forget about explaining anything to anyone for a while and do some listening.

They could consider further studies, informal discussions, community forums whatever works. They just need to get clear on exactly why voters rejected that measure.

We don't pretend to know the answer, but we do know this:

Repeatedly trying to force the same measure down voters necks is a foolhardy waste of money.

More to the point, it isn't fixing the problems at hand.

And we'd hope that's the main goal here whatever the solution turns out to be.