Reporting Reg Chapman
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Voters in one-third of Minnesota’s school districts will vote Tuesday on whether they should give more money to their schools.
One hundred and thirteen districts in the state have an operating levy on the ballot.
About half of those are looking to renew an existing levy — the other half are seeking to renew a levy and get additional money.
The Anoka-Hennepin School District, which is the largest in the state, is asking voters to renew a levy and approve two new ones.
The pamphlets, the flyers, the questionnaires — all with information aimed at getting voters in the Anoka-Hennepin School District to say “yes” to schools.
“These are about the day-to-day things we need in the classroom,” said Education Minnesota’s Julie Blaha.
Anoka-Hennepin will ask voters three questions about funding.
The first would renew the existing levy, so it will not increase taxes.
“Question two will cost an average taxpayer $2.58 a month and that would give us the kind of technology we need to be productive and efficient in the classroom. Question three, which would only cost $10.22 a month for an average homeowner, would simply be insurance against future state funding shortfalls,” Blaha said.
If the levies fail, Blaha said students and teachers will be impacted.
“We’d be looking at class sizes in the elementary over 40 students. We’d be over 50 in high school classes. We’d be cutting over 500 teachers,” said Blaha.
Education Minnesota blames lagging state funding and an accounting shift during the past legislative session that shifted a bulk of state aid funding into the next fiscal year.
But the push to get voters to help has its critics.
“It’s reasonable for taxpayers to ask how these first increases are being spent before granting a second one,” said Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington.
Garofalo said voters should ask questions of districts that seek to raise rather than renew levies.
He said the recent increase in state aid to education was substantial.
“Over $650 million increase, now the state of Minnesota is spending over $14.5 billion to educate about 850,000 children,” Garofalo said.