I would like to commend the Cambridge-Isanti school district for being fiscally responsible as shown in last week’s paper. The school district expenditures ran 23 percent below the state average while maintaining high standards of education.
Over the last two years I have had my eyes opened to the huge disparity in public education funding. Cambridge-Isanti is ranked 319 out of 336 school districts, with only 15 districts receiving less funding than ours. Because of this, our district has had to make some very difficult decisions in program cuts, staff reductions and increased fees.
Some progress has been made this past legislative session which I am grateful for. Our legislators realized that property poor districts like ours would continue to be funded unfairly. In the past, school districts like ours with low property wealth have carried the burden of any operating levies. To compensate for this, legislators have given school boards the authority to pass a minimal operating levy. This will not eliminate the problem, but it is a start towards fully funded equitable public education in Minnesota. It is our children’s constitutional right to have a free and unified system of public education.
Having said all this, our district finds itself facing some badly needed repairs and security improvements. In order to fund these expenditures, they are forced to go to the voters for adequate funding. In the current system, there are limited funds for these types of expenditures. Again, the disparity in this type of funding leaves smaller schools like Cambridge-Isanti at a disadvantage. Larger schools receive more adequate funding, we have to ask voters for them.
The school district has done a great job of informing the public about the bond and what it covers. What people need to realize is these issues are not wants, they are needs. If the bond does not pass, these items will still need to be done. We cannot have unsafe schools, leaky roofs, highly inefficient boilers, poor air quality, and unsafe parking lots. Our children deserve better. These items will have to be addressed. The funds therefore will come directly at our children’s expense with potential program cuts, staff reductions, and again, increased fees.
I feel so strongly about this that last spring I testified at the Senate Education Committee hearing at the Capitol. If you get a moment please read my testimony, https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-vOyie35s24vw8CYl16BJoYDE4rbue8sLZBf08LXGhQ/edit, but most importantly, vote yes on Nov. 5.