Tricounty News

April 19 Update

Legislative Committees:

The House and Senate Education bills were released and heard last week. The short news is that the House bill contains more money. The House bill raises the pupil funding formula by 2 percent in year one and 2 percent in year two. The Senate bill raises the pupil funding formula by 1 percent in the first year and 0 percent in the second year. Both bills will fully fund all-day kindergarten in the second year (2014–2015 school year) of the biennium. These amounts make up the bulk of the new spendable revenue.

Both bills will go through the finance and tax committees before going to the floor for a vote. Along the way, amendments are allowed and added, so the bills are constantly changing. Once off the floor, a conference committee made up of members selected from both the House and Senate will meet to combine the two versions into a single E-12 education omnibus bill. The bill returns to the House and the Senate floor for a vote and then goes to the governor. Amendments are not allowed after the bill is out of conference committee.

Strategic Planning:

We’d like you to take part in the Eden Valley – Watkins School District’s Strategic Planning process. Strategic planning is an organization’s process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources.

We have scheduled three community meetings to take place on May 15, 22, and 29, from
5:30–7 p.m. in the High School Media Center to solicit your feedback and values, as we develop our strategic plan. We would be happy to have you join us for refreshments and sandwiches as we shape the future for our school district. Please RSVP to Marsha Davidson in the District Office at (320) 453-2900 ext. 1142, if you would like to be involved.

High quality schools for all children no matter the zip code:

What happens if a family in one community pays $3.50 for a gallon of milk while another family in a neighboring community pays $10.50? What if the family pays three times as much for most of their everyday necessities? Obviously, the quality of life for that family is greatly diminished. This scenario plays out today in schools all across Minnesota.

Back in the 1980s, many school districts struggled to provide a quality education for their students. The state funding per student was inadequate, and schools were forced to rely on voter-approved school levies just to provide the very basics. The taxpayer cost per levy dollar was based on the individual property wealth of a school district, those districts with significant commercial or industrial development held a distinct advantage. The larger tax base lowered the cost for all. Taxpayers in districts with mostly residential development paid two or three times as much for each levy dollar, and were unable to support sufficient levy revenue for their schools. As a result, Minnesota’s education system became one of “haves” and “have-nots,” with the quality of a child’s education dependent mainly upon their zip code.

Educators accused the Legislature of not meeting its constitutional obligation to provide a “general and uniform” system of public schools. In the resulting 1991 lawsuit, the appellate court agreed that reform was needed when differences in school funding were based merely on the property wealth of each school district. The Legislature responded with several measures to reduce the disparities. One major change was the adoption of equalization, which is a match of state aid to make the cost of a levy dollar uniform across the state.  Over the next several years, the funding disparity between school districts in the top five percent and the lowest five percent shrunk from
35 percent to 19 percent.

Unfortunately, the funding disparity has crept back up to
31 percent, mostly because the erosion of equalization has resulted in less levy revenue in low property wealth districts. Because the State Legislature hasn’t adjusted equalization since 1993, residents in some communities once again pay two or three times more for each levy dollar. For example, the state allows districts to have school levies up to $1,633 per pupil, and many do. The annual cost to a taxpayer per $100,000 of property value in a high property wealth school district for this levy amount is $151, while for residents and small business owners in the Eden Valley–Watkins district the cost escalates to $494.

It is time to bring greater equity to our schools. Students today won’t just compete against students in the next town or next state; they will compete against the entire world. All students must have equal access to a high quality education regardless of where they live in Minnesota. Many legislators recognize the need to make school levies more affordable in low property wealth districts. Contact your legislators today to say that increasing equalization must be part of the final budget agreement.

This information is provided by Schools for Equitable Education, an association of 62 Minnesota School Districts, including the Eden Valley–Watkins district. SEE works to advocate for equity and adequacy in K-12 education funding and policy. For more information, visit www.schoolsforequity.org.

Senior of the Week:

The EV-W School District would like to recognize DeAngelo James, son of Tom and Peg. DeAngelo has been very personable and out-going in the EV-W school setting as he welcomes many new students and staff to our appealing school climate. He is actively involved in the DECA program and also participates in many school plays. DeAngelo has established a solid work ethic as he’s been employed by Cutco industries in the sales department. The EV-W administration, faculty and staff are extremely proud of your accomplishments. Congratulations!