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Educators, administrators, students testify to unique educational needs of Greater Minnesota school districts

WINDOM -- A number of school superintendents, board of education members, teachers and students from across the region took to the stand Friday to share with Minnesota legislators the unique educational needs of Greater Minnesota school districts.

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Prairie Elementary First Grade Teacher Dawn Teerink (with microphone) addresses Minnesota House of Representatives Education Finance Division Committee members Friday at a field hearing at Windom Area Middle/High School. (Alyssa Sobotka / The Globe)

WINDOM - A number of school superintendents, board of education members, teachers and students from across the region took to the stand Friday to share with Minnesota legislators the unique educational needs of Greater Minnesota school districts.

During an approximately two-hour long field hearing at Windom Area Middle/High School, those affected most by education finance and policy decisions shared some common messages to members of the Minnesota House of Representatives Education Finance Committee prior to the committee hearing and referring two bills forward.

Among the testimony heard included: the need to reform public education financing, with specific regard to more equitable funding to school districts statewide; the need for better funding for special education populations; improvements to safety and security, which includes counselors and support staff for students’ social and emotional well-being; and appropriate funding and recognition of the importance of career and technical education programming.

From Worthington, Independent School District 518 Board of Education Treasurer Linden Olson addressed the committee. He advocated for a major change in school funding to address what he called “the enormous inequities and disparities” that exist by using local property taxes to fund public education.

Prairie Elementary First Grade Teacher Dawn Teerink also addressed the committee, sharing the district’s current situation surrounding its enrollment growth but inability to pass a bond referendum.

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“Unfortunately, every (bond referendum) has failed,” Teerink said. “The large farming community is feeling the heavy tax burden, with the tariffs and the price of corn and beans.”

Windom Area Schools was also well represented, as Superintendent Wayne Wormstadt, school board member Joel Bordewyk, staff and students testified. Wormstadt and Bordewyk both paid compliments to the Ag2Schools tax credit program.

“Without the Ag2Schools tax credit, we probably wouldn’t have passed our school bond issue,” Wormstadt said of the referendum voters approved last spring to build a new elementary school and career and technical education center.

Windom junior Parker Bramstedt spoke highly of the CTE expansion, and advocated that coursework be introduced to students at an earlier age to better expose students of the high-paying possibilities.

“I believe increasing access to students to career and technical education courses earlier will help prepare students for a workforce that currently has a large demand for technical skilled (labor) and will help Minnesota be competitive in hiring quality people,” Bramstedt said.

Following testimony, the committee voted to advance two bills to the tax committee. House Files 1142 and 1143 call for equalization aid for school districts’ debt service and operating referendums, respectively.

Pending review by the tax committee, the bills may then advance them to a final omnibus bill.

 

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Minnesota House of Representatives Education Finance Division Chair Jim Davnie welcomes the public to a Friday field hearing at Windom Area Middle/High School. (Alyssa Sobotka / The Globe)

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