4024 Virginia AV
Shoreview, MN 55126
August 6, 2003
As residents of the Mounds View School District await this fall’s referendum vote we have to ask how we ended up in this situation when little more than a couple of decades ago good education was part of Time Magazine’s ‘Good Life in Minnesota” feature. Why in a district with a high family income and actively involved parents (the combination of which is a high indicator student performance and success, even more so than the level of state funding) are we being asked to reach deeper into our pockets to directly fund the operating budgets of only our schools? If we are concerned about our students’ success should we not be even more concerned about the children of Minnesota’s other less privileged districts. Perhaps we should be digging in our pockets for the schoolchildren of St. Paul proper or the rural districts that really lack resources. At a time when so many supported the ‘no new taxes’ mantra why should we now support a significant direct local tax in support of schools. I would suggest that funding of all MN schools should be the priority, not just those in our backyards and not just attended by our own children or our neighbor’s children. If we are committed to solving education funding the solution lies at the Capitol, not in the pockets of the Mounds View District residents.
District materials indicate that an operating levy will restore class sizes from those we will have in 2003-2004 to those of 2002-2003. Virtually all class size studies suggest that student performance increases significantly when class sizes are comprised of 15-20 students. A successful levy will raise taxes but will not meet the outcome of a class size likely to lead to greater success. Given the choice I’d rather have my children (and all children) in large classes with excellent, committed, well-compensated teachers than in small classes with teachers of unmeasured or unmonitored performance or with whom I am simply not satisfied.
In 2001 the operating levy failed at the polls with only a 39% approval rate. The 1989 operating levy was approved by voters, added $323 in revenue per student and will continue until 2008. Has that earlier operating levy delivered the results anticipated? Were there (or are there now) measurable outcomes from the existing operating levy, and do the measurements indicate success?
At each successive budget ‘crisis’ the burden continues to end up on the children. Fewer options and fewer programs for students continue to be the answer. As private sector employees lose their jobs, incur dramatic health care increases and uncertain futures and as state employees are encouraged to be glad they have a job and cuts or no increases, lets make sure that all stakeholders in the district have been heard and that there has been active cost sharing, and let’s make sure it happens before we eliminate more opportunities for children. If we have teachers that do not meet our customer expectations, help them transition to new opportunities and ensure that we retain and employ only the very best. How often have you asked other parents their experience with individual teachers only to learn that all was not well in that classroom? Why is even one unsatisfactory teacher acceptable if any taxpayer is asked to pay more?
Not everyone is going to graduate, get a higher education degree and return to Shoreview to work and live. Our children will work and live with the children of the less fortunate districts, too. Solving just this district’s problems is piecemeal, simplistic and short-term. We need solutions for education funding, student success and teacher performance throughout Minnesota not just in the Moundsview, Arden Hills and Shoreview area.
John F. Leeper.