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State’s Largest District Asks Voters To Increase Funding

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COON RAPIDS, Minn. (WCCO) – This fall voters in 130 communities statewide will be asked to go to the polls to vote on more money for schools.

School districts are warning that there could be hundreds of teacher layoffs and class sizes would increase dramatically if voters don’t approve the increase in funding.

On Monday night, the Anoka-Hennepin School District, which is the largest in the state, will hold a public meeting on their referendum.

According to the school district, if these referendums fail, there will be 50-plus kids in classrooms, 500 teachers will be laid off and five schools will close.

Right now, there are 35 kids in Mrs. Witucki’s fifth grade classroom. If referendums for the Anoka-Hennepin District fail on Nov. 8, the district said every classroom will get 10 more kids.

“I’m very worried. Looking at even having one less class and having your class sizes go even two more students where the numbers are now would have an impact on my class,” Witucki said.

Anoka-Hennepin high schools already have 40-plus kids in the class. The district produced a video and put it on YouTube to show what a chemistry class would look like with 53 kids.

The district is asking voters to pass three different referendums. One is a renewal of an existing $48 million referendum that would not increase property taxes. The second a $3 million technology referendum that would increase taxes an average of $36 a year. The third would be an increase of $12 million in anticipation of lower funding levels from the legislature. That would increase taxes an average of $120 a year.

The district’s superintendent knows in a tough economy there are no guarantees of passage.

“It is not an ideal time to be going to our public. Our public is weary of requests to raise taxes,” said Superintendent Dennis Carlson.

These referendums have their critics. Notably Rep. Pat Garofalo, the Republican Chair of the House Education Finance committee, is critical of a lot of these school referendums saying the Republican legislature did increase funding for schools last year. Critics, including legislators, say that increase was nowhere near what schools needed.

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