Election 2018: School Funding

Both Minneapolis and Saint Paul are running a school funding levy referendum this year.

In Minneapolis, there are two questions:

Approval of School District Referendum Revenue Authorization

The Board of Special School District No. 1 (Minneapolis Public Schools) has proposed to increase its general education revenue by $490.00 per pupil. The proposed referendum revenue authorization would increase each year by the rate of inflation and be applicable for seven years beginning with taxes payable in 2019, unless otherwise revoked or reduced as provided by law.

Shall the increase in the revenue proposed by the board of Special School District No. 1 be approved?

AND:

Approval of School District Capital Project Levy Authorization

The Board of Special School District No. 1 (Minneapolis Public Schools) has proposed a capital project levy authorization in the amount of 2.249% times the net tax capacity of the school district to provide funds for the purchase, installation, and maintenance of software applications and technology equipment, and for training and directly related personnel costs. The proposed capital project levy authorization will raise approximately $12,000,000 for taxes payable in 2019, the first year it is to be levied, and would be authorized for seven years. The estimated total cost of the projects to be funded over that time period is approximately $84,000,000.

Shall the increase in the revenue proposed by the board of Special School District No. 1 be approved?

In St. Paul, there is one question:

Revoking Existing Operating Referendum Revenue Authorization; Approving New Authorization

The school board of Independent School District No. 625, Saint Paul Public Schools, has proposed to revoke the school district’s existing operating referendum revenue authorization of $704.52 per pupil and to replace that authorization with a new authorization of $1179.52 per pupil. The proposed referendum revenue authorization would increase each year by the rate of inflation and be applicable for ten years, beginning with taxes payable in 2019, unless otherwise revoked or reduced as provided by law.

Shall the school district’s existing operating referendum revenue authorization be revoked and the increase in revenue proposed by the school board of Independent School District No. 625, Saint Paul Public Schools, be approved?

Saint Paul has a Vote Yes site.

Minneapolis has a Vote Yes Twice site.

There does not appear to be any organized opposition to either initiative.

I basically always vote yes on these. I vote yes on these even if I think a district is being run badly: my philosophy in that case is to approve the levy, then vote out the incumbents on the school board.

We actually did vote out basically all the Saint Paul incumbents in 2015, after a whole series of questionable decisions, and it seems to have helped. Minneapolis, well, my frustrations with the Minneapolis school board are summed up well by this jaw-droppingly disingenuous Q&A about the last funding referendum (which was two years ago) on an MPS page about the school budget issues:

How can you talk about raising class size when we voted for a referendum to maintain class size?

You are correct that the 2016 referendum did, in fact, focus on class size. A class size target was not, however, included in that referendum. Instead, the funds from that referendum are to be used to “manage class size,” which is also the focus of this year’s reduction recommendations. [It goes on from here, but my rage blackout from “oh yes, two years ago we talked about class sizes to get you to give us more money, but we didn’t actually give a NUMBER, now, did we?” rendered the rest of the paragraph illegible.]

I mean, to be fair, when I wrote about that funding levy in 2016, I totally didn’t believe that they were going to lower class sizes:

I endorse a “Yes” vote, and I would vote for this if I lived in Minneapolis, because I always vote for these. Even though it annoyed the hell out of me that they claimed twice that they were going to use the money to lower class sizes and class sizes in Minneapolis stayed appallingly large. This time they’re saying that they use the money to “manage class sizes,” whatever the hell that means.

So for the (many) people currently frustrated by decision-making in Minneapolis, I would suggest voting yes on both levies, then kicking Rebecca Gagnon to the curb. (Also, regarding that second levy, they want you to know that although the second one is talking about technology, they’re not planning to do anything new with this, they’ll just stick that money in the “technology maintenance and support” pot and take the money that was in that pot before and use it for whatever.)

If you’re wondering how much money this will cost you, that information is here for Minneapolis residents, and here for St. Paul residents.

Here is an article from the Star Trib about the St. Paul referendum. And an article from the Southwest Journal about the Minneapolis referendum.

While researching this, I wanted to include the current class sizes in Minneapolis. The budget page I linked and quoted from up above is a FAQ and includes the question, “What are our class size targets now?” and they answer this by saying that high-priority schools have smaller class size targets than others because of higher needs and then don’t tell you what anyone’s class size targets are. The documents with this information are given cryptic names and are linked from this page, buried deep within their website. Minneapolis’s numbers were actually less horrific than I’d feared; they’ve definitely been worse.

Saint Paul makes this data a lot easier to find. Here are charts and you can also view this data over time. Kudos to St. Paul for not playing games and trying to hide this information.

Anyway. If they don’t get this money, class sizes will definitely get worse, because when schools are in a dire situation, laying off a bunch of teachers and spreading the remaining students around is the easiest way to find the money quickly. Decent schools are something I’m very willing to pay for.

 

One thought on “Election 2018: School Funding

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s