The Journal has endorsed the passage of the District 88 tax levy referendum, which is seeking voters' permission to levy an extra $575 per pupil for up to ten years to support education.
The district's need is clear. It has been cutting programs, raising class sizes, raising student fees, economizing where possible, trimming millions of dollars from its budget over the past eight years. There is simply no easy way to cut more out of the school's budget without harming programs and degrading the quality of the educational product. The district needs more money, and the state is not likely to provide much more than it is now giving in the next few years.
That leaves one option - to ask you, the residents of the district, to increase the property tax levy for the school district.
We have heard from people who are discouraged and upset by the rise in property taxes, who can't afford to pay more, who are on fixed incomes, who haven't had a pay hike in three years, or have lost jobs. We agree with you and sympathize - it is not fair to ask you to pay more, but this is the system that Minnesota has for financing its schools. State law dictates how much schools can raise in revenue, and where it comes from. Legislators and governors who have pledged themselves to never raise taxes in the state - even to give the state's school children a decent education! - have blinded themselves to the impact that property tax increases have on people. It's not their fault, its a local government issue, they claim. Property taxes are the least fair form of taxation, not based on ability to pay, but that's what school districts are forced to rely on.
We have heard people grumble that if we give the district more property taxes, they'll just spend it on teacher salaries and benefits, not on education. How do they think education works?! Can't they see that education is a labor intensive task? Yes, about 80 percent of the school budget goes for salaries and benefits, but without teachers in the classrooms, education just doesn't happen. Spending money for teachers IS spending money for the students. More teachers, enough to bring class sizes down to a reasonable level, WILL?benefit the students.
We've heard people say they'd be willing to pay more, but they want their money to be spent "responsibly." We would invite those people to go spend a little time in the schools, volunteer their time, maybe, and see how the money is being spent. Look at the copyright dates on the textbooks, see if there are enough texts so each student can have one, count how many students are crowded into a class, and tell us the district is not spending the money responsibly.
We've heard people say they don't have children in the schools anymore, and don't feel they should have to shoulder any extra burden. Make the parents who are sending the kids to school pay. Who paid for their schooling? When they went to public schools did their parents pay tuition, or did the community support it with taxes? Did their parents have to pay for them to play on athletic teams like parents do today?
Face it, folks, this is OUR community and OUR?school system. We need to keep them strong. If we let our school system slide further downhill, the community won't be far behind.
Invest in our schools by supporting the referendum, and let your legislators know you are tired of picking up the state's share of the burden.