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Anoka-Hennepin students walking
Photo: Anoka-Hennepin Schools

“Public education is probably the most important thing we’ve got; It’s the equalizer for our society,” commented Val Holthus, president of Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota. “We need to have an educated public.”

MRLF endorses levies in five suburban school districts
If levies fail, kids loose

From the Minneapolis Labor Review, October 16, 2021

By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor

MINNEAPOLIS — Numerous school districts in suburban communities are seeking voter approval this election cycle for ballot questions to fund their schools.  For some districts, it’s a second attempt to pass levies that voters rejected in the past year or two — losses at the ballot box that led to significant budget cuts impacting students, families, teachers and other school staff.

The Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO has endorsed school levy campaigns in five districts:

• Anoka-Hennepin (ISD 11);
• Eastern Carver County (ISD 112);
• Monticello (ISD 882);
• St. Michael-Albertville (ISD 885);
• Shakopee (ISD 720).

Without full funding for local public schools from the state of Minnesota or the federal government, most school districts need to turn to local voters to approve property tax levies to fund basic operating costs, build new facilities, or invest in new technology.

“It’s a flawed system, in my opinion, there’s no doubt,” said Joe Rosh, president of Education Minnesota-Monticello and a high school history teacher. “Your Zip Code shouldn’t define your school funding.”

When it comes to funding levels in different school districts, “there are ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ — across a river, across a [school district] border,” he noted.

The Monticello school district has three levy questions on the November 2 ballot.

“As someone who is a member of a union,” Rosh said, “I support schools and these types of levies because they ultimately help workers have a better standard of living… and it will save jobs and ultimately all of that funnels down to community members who in Monticello are working class people who want their kids to have the best possible choices and the best possible education.”

“Public education is probably the most important thing we’ve got; It’s the equalizer for our society,” commented Val Holthus, president of Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota. “We need to have an educated public.”

The Anoka-Hennepin school district also is seeking voter support for three levy questions.

“If we appropriately fund public education,” Holthus said, “then we will have a public that is able to sustain themselves, and be able to make wise decisions, and have a healthy economy.”

A “no” vote on a school levy, “hurts kids in the long run,” said Dale Anderson president of the Shakopee Education Association and a high school social studies teacher.

The Shakopee school district will have two levy questions on the ballot.

“If your own kid is going to be going to school here, it makes no sense to vote against the levy,” Anderson said.

The St. Michael-Albertville school district will have an operating levy question on the ballot November 2.

High school social studies teacher Bob Zahler, president of Education Minnesota — St. Michael-Albertville, advised union members: “Think about the real effects of this… This is about what will actually happen to kids and to our labor brothers and sisters who are teachers.”

Here’s a closer look at the five school districts with AFL-CIO endorsed levies.

Anoka-Hennepin Schools:
Three ballot questions


Voters in the Anoka-Hennepin school district will find three levy questions on the 2021 ballot.

The first question will renew an operating levy originally passed in 2007 and previously renewed in 2011. This measure will maintain current class sizes, school programs, and services.

The second question will renew a capital projects levy originally passed in 2011 to fund technology support, tools and resources for students.

The third question, a new operating levy, aims to fund targeted support for students for mental health, social-emotional support, and academic help for under-achieving students.

Passing the first two questions will not lead to a tax increase.

Passing the third question would bring a tax increase of about $10 per month for a $250,000 home, beginning in 2023, according to the school district’s website.

If voters reject the first question, “it’s over nine percent of the district’s operating budget — that’s significant,” said Val Holthus, president of the district’s teachers union, Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota.

The school district says $34.5 million in cuts would need to be made if the first question fails.

“Parents would feel that, students would feel that, teachers would definitely feel that,” Holthus said. “I’m sure we would have increased class sizes.” And, she noted, class sizes already are high.

The pandemic and the move to distance learning or hybrid classes, Holthus said, exposed the district’s technology needs, making the passing of question two vitally important.

Passing question three, she added, also stems in part from the pandemic: “It’s been really rough; Mental health services have really been taxed. It’s been a very difficult time for parents, teachers and students. We do not have enough counselors.”

For more information:

www.ahschools.us/vote2021


Eastern Carver County Schools:
One ballot question


The Easter Carver County Schools will be asking voter support for one operating levy question, which would increase revenue by $550 per student for ten years. The cost to the average homeowner, the district says, would be about $20 per month.

If voters reject the levy, the district’s website says, budget cuts would follow, with the prospect of increased class sizes, bus service cuts, reducing gifted and talented programs, and eliminating 5th grade band.

Because an operating levy question failed in 2019, “the last two years we have cut over $9 million,” reported Chris Commers, high school social studies teacher and president of the Chaska Education Association, the district’s teachers union. “Our class sizes are continually growing.”

“We’ve lost over 60 members to cuts over the last two years,” he reported. “We’ve lost more who have left and gone to other districts that are more secure… We’ve lost a lot of talent.”

“The 2021 operating levy is basically  to stop the cuts,” Commers said. “It’s pretty modest.”’

For more information:

www.eccsvote.org


Monticello Schools:
Three ballot questions


Three levy questions will appear on the ballot for the Monticello school district. According to the school district website: The first question is an operating levy to lower the amount of projected budget cuts; The second question, contingent on the first question passing, is an operating levy that would eliminate projected budget cuts; The third question, a technology levy, would maintain a 1:1 device ratio for all students and invest in improved technology. “The total estimated property tax impact if all three questions pass would be a $370 annual increase on a $250,000 home,” the district’s website reports.

If the operating levies fail, “from a teaching standpoint, I know there will be a dramatic increase in class sizes,” said Joe Rosh, president of Education Minnesota-Monticello. “Five extra fifth graders in a room — that makes a difference.”

Ultimately, the levies aren’t about numbers or dollars but about opportunities for the kids, he emphasized. For example, if the first question fails, “middle school sports are in jeopardy of being completely cut.”

For more information:

www.monticello.k12.mn.us


St. Michael-Albertville Schools:
One ballot question


The St. Michael-Albertville school district will be seeking voter support for one ballot question, an operating levy. The district says the tax impact would be $59 per month based on an average $250,000 home.

“We went through tremendous budget cuts last spring,” reported Bob Zahler, high school social studies teacher and president of Education Minnesota — St. Michael-
Albertville. The district cut 70 staff positions. “That has resulted in higher class sizes already,” Zahler said.

The district warns that another 70 staff positions will be cut if the measure fails, with additional cuts including arts, music and school activities.

“The only way we can lower class sizes again is to raise the funds,” Zahler said. “If we don’t get the money, we’re not going to get bailed out by the state.”

For more information:

https://mn50000079.schoolwires.net/domain/4690


Shakopee Schools:
Two ballot questions


Voters in the Shakopee school district will find two operating levy questions on their ballot. Question one would restore staff positions, restore class size targets and programs, and eliminate projected deficits. Question two would allow further improvements. If both measures pass, the tax impact will be $597.77 per year for the average home valued at $317,000.

In the view of Dale Anderson, high school social studies teacher and president of the Shakopee Education Association, question one “is about restoring the things that are closest to students.”

When the district’s 2020 levy request failed, the district went ahead with $5.4 million in projected cuts, including 50-plus teaching positions, athletics and band. “If this levy fails, there’s a whole other round of cuts that will come,” Anderson warned.

For more information:

www.shakopeelevy2021.org

For information about where to vote on school levy questions, visit your local school district’s website. In some districts, in-person voting takes place only at district offices or at district schools.

Shakopee levy graphic
Graphic: Shakopee Schools

A graphic image created by the Shakopee Schools to promote their 2021 levy.

 


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