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Letter: Referendum will break the camel's back

By Mark Schutte, Rushmore I'd like to start off by thanking our local teachers for doing their best to educate our youth. Your dedication is greatly appreciated. I understand that many school district employees are upset with the current state of...

 

By Mark Schutte, Rushmore

I'd like to start off by thanking our local teachers for doing their best to educate our youth. Your dedication is greatly appreciated. I understand that many school district employees are upset with the current state of their working environment. I will not deny that there are some space concerns within our schools. Solving this problem is no easy task. However, I feel there are more cost-effective solutions than the ones proposed within the latest referendum.

 

In November 2016, District 518 had a $79 million referendum on the ballot. This was voted down. Now, the district is proposing a $68 million referendum, claiming that this version will cost the taxpayer $11 million less. This is where the wool is pulled over our eyes. The school district is using $11 million from their reserve funds to construct an Alternative Learning/Gymnastics center. Where did that money come from? Did all of the Vote Yes proponents donate a portion of their income to a school fundraiser? Nope. Apparently, those of us who own property within the district pay enough in real estate taxes to accumulate a reserve fund. This tells me that our property taxes are already sufficient to provide for the needs of our schools.

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In the past 10 years, our school district has spent over $20 million dollars on various projects and purchases, yet very few classrooms have been added. We are told that the No. 1 issue within our schools is a shortage of space. We often hear, “We are teaching the children in closets and storage rooms and hallways!” If we’re in such dire need of space, how many classrooms could we fit into the district’s multi-million dollar transportation building? One begins to think that our administration has their priorities in disarray.

 

According to the Minnesota Department of Education, District 518’s standardized test scores are well below average. Our 2017 scores in Reading proficiency came in at 37 percent. The statewide average is 60 percent. Most of the Vote Yes proponents will tell you that there is only one reason for this, and that would be a lack of space. This is false. I was in third grade when Prairie Elementary was built, and I do not recall a sudden jump in our proficiency ratings. This is because new buildings do not magically give children the ability to learn. They also do not improve test scores.

 

Supporters of the referendum often argue that our school infrastructure is scaring families away from moving to our community. This is another misconception that is presented as being the gospel truth. We are led to believe that the space concerns are so terrible that no parent would want their child attending such a cramped school. Why would our projected class sizes grow if our current facilities are truly as bad as they’re made out to be? Wouldn’t future enrollment be deterred?

 

In conclusion, I’d like to say on behalf of all the Vote No proponents, that we absolutely care about the kids in our community. We want our children to learn and succeed. We are NOT the heartless, selfish people that many have accused us of being. We are simply fed up with excessive taxation and reckless government spending. Every dollar we earn is taxed, and every dollar we spend is taxed. The homes and land that we own are never truly paid in full. Our government forces us to pay an ever-increasing rent. If this exorbitant referendum is passed, the incentive to own property in District 518 will diminish even further. I urge you to vote NO on Feb. 13.

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Our community cannot bear such a heavy burden.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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