OUR OPINION: SCHOOL LEVIES
Education funding in the state of Minnesota is broken down and, as a result, Brainerd School District voters are being asked to step up to the plate on Nov. 8 and support the school district’s operating levy requests.
While renewing or increasing operating levies for our schools is never a pleasant task, it’s an investment in our community’s future that must be made. Look at the big picture and envision the Brainerd School District’s future if our schools are forced to continue without stable funding. It’s not a pretty picture.
The state has abrogated its constitutional responsibility to adequately support education and has “borrowed” from school funds in order to balance its own budget. As a result of Minnesota’s inconsistent funding, about 90 percent of the state’s school districts have local levies to support education.
Brainerd’s current operating levy, which is about to expire, is $199 per student. This compares to the state average for a local levy of $936 per student. The current levy, which is almost a decade old, woefully underfunds the district. Brainerd School District Superintendent Steve Razidlo said local levies are on average 14 percent of a district’s general education revenue, while Brainerd’s current levy is 3 percent of the district’s general education revenue.
Consider that despite the city of Brainerd’s double-digit unemployment figure, Brainerd area manufacturers said this past week they’re having a hard time finding qualified workers. As more baby boomers reach retirement age, the Brainerd area is going to need every skilled worker it can retain. Without good schools the challenge of filling important jobs in a variety of fields is going to be daunting.
If both questions — approving $199 per student in referendum revenue and increasing that support by an additional $200 — fail the Brainerd School District will have no choice but to make drastic cuts that will involve the elimination of both staff and programs.
This decision affects more than just those people who have children attending schools now. Similar to the construction of streets and bridges, the education of our young people is a function of government that benefits the entire community.
The Brainerd School District has done more with less and its students have continued to excel in academic pursuits. This exemplary performance by the students won’t continue if academic programs are gutted and significant numbers of staff layoffs are made.
We encourage district residents to vote yes on both Question No. 1 and Question No. 2 on Nov. 8.