Yesterday, the SC Times editorial board wrote this Our View editorial on the upcoming school levy elections. To say that it’s biased is understatement. Here’s the title of the editorial:

Our View: Local levies cover state’s epic failure

I’m thankful that the Times editorial board didn’t take a partisan approach to the issue. Here’s the editorial’s opening paragraphs:

Residents in nine area school districts have about a week left to decide how they will vote on requests to raise local property taxes to help their districts, Sauk Rapids-Rice, Sartell-St. Stephen, Rocori, Foley, Royalton, Melrose, Milaca, Upsala and Princeton.

All essentially need the funds to maintain operating budgets. One, Sartell-St. Stephen, also needs help for repairs. This board urges approval of all questions, largely because of the state’s epic failure to meet its constitutional obligation to adequately fund education.

Yes, epic. Look no further than how legislators and the governor the past four years have chosen to withhold about 40 percent of the education funds the state promised. Add in that these elected officials continue to use a baseline funding formula developed 35 years ago while routinely letting partisan politics trump serious reform efforts and “epic” is a deserved descriptor.

What’s worse is this section of the editorial:

These districts’ residents should recognize levy requests are made because districts have little choice. Without more local help, most districts’ consequences will include some or all of these: reducing student services and programming, increasing class sizes, and not updating technology and curriculum.

Admittedly, some extra funds will compensate staff. However, it’s naïve, even misleading, to claim staff will get rich off it when an average raise is about 2 percent.

That’s a strawman argument if ever I saw one. Whether “staff will get rich” isn’t the question. The real question is whether the “staff”, a euphemism for high paid administrators, are adding anything to the quality of the students’ education.

Over the weekend, a loyal reader of this blog told me that staff at his old high school had jumped sevenfold over the past 25 years. That despite the fact that graduating classes had dropped by 20%.

Apparently the Times editorial board hasn’t asked the superintendents how many administrators are needed to run a school district. considering the fact that House Majority Leader Matt Dean is investigating what’s happening in Minneapolis:

House Majority Leader Matt Dean (R-Dellwood) is doing his own inquiry into how the Minneapolis Public Schools spends it money after reading this Star Tribune report. The story revealed Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson’s decision to award $270,000 in retroactive raises to central office administrators at the same time the district cut more than 100 jobs including 52 teaching positions.

The Times’ editorial assumes that there isn’t mismanagement of the taxpayers’ money within the school districts. Clearly, Majority Leader Dean thinks there’s, at minimum, the possibility of mismanagement within the Minneapolis public schools.

Reflexively thinking that everything’s the legislature’s fault might make for snappy headlines but it might not be an accurate depiction of what’s wrong with the school district.

The Times is right about this:

Rocori: The district basically seeks to combine two existing operating levies into one that will last for 10 years. Passage means district taxes will remain the same. Similarly, district programming will be continued. Worth noting: Even with existing levies, the district has cut its budget for 12 straight years.

Rocori has been underfunded for years. Voting to combine operating levies while putting them in place for a decade is what’s needed. Stability is essential anywhere. Stability is especially essential at Rocori.

Full disclosure: I have a friend who teaches at Rocori. My opinion, however, is based on the fact that the school has been underfunded for years. That’s the worst kept secret in central Minnesota.

I’m not reflexively saying that all levies should be voted down. I’m saying that the school districts should detail how the taxpayers’ money is spent. This information should be shared at an open meeting where the public is able to ask questions or make comments with the full board and the superintendent there taking questions.

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