By Supt. Dr. Jon Ellerbusch, Guest Columnist
Royalton ranked 331 out of 338 school districts in total funding. On Nov. 6, the community of Esko passed a $341 per pupil operating levy along with a $2.7 million bond to improve their sports facilities. They will move up from their previous 334 position and Royalton will drop down to 332. Having the opportunity for our community to say its schools are last in Minnesota is, indeed, within our grasp.
Leadership at the Minnesota Department of Education are fully aware schools like Royalton are underfunded by more than $400 per pupil for a basic quality of education. They also know the disparity between the have and have not school districts is spinning out of control. The dollar gap in school funding per student in 2005 was approximately $1,000. Today, it is just shy of $1,700. Royalton asked and did not receive support to close that gap by $350.
People asked me Wednesday, Nov. 7, how I felt about the failed levy. I felt like an orphaned child. The state legislators have knowingly abandoned their duty to establish a general and uniform system of public schools for all children. The majority of voters in the Royalton School District are doing the same either because they cannot or will not support textbooks, technology and transportation for students.
Where do Royalton Schools go from here? The simple answer is we press on. Being an orphan at the age of 14 didn’t stop Andrew Jackson from becoming the seventh United States president. President Herbert Hoover was at the school age of 9 when he was an orphan, too.
Our students are very fortunate to have the high quality level of teachers and principals in their lives. We may be at the bottom in funding and support, but we are on the complete opposite in the quality of educators. Because we’ve hired and are developing top-notch teachers these past few years, I’m highly confident Royalton Schools will continue on the path of improvements each year. We will not slow down our efforts in achieving district goals that prepare all students for postsecondary schools and careers.
I’d like to take the opportunity to thank the 877 community members who voted “Yes” on the ballot question. We’d greatly appreciate feedback from the 1,023 who voted “No.” Why wouldn’t you support this levy?
Responses can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to the attention of Jon Ellerbusch at 120 South Hawthorn, Royalton, MN 56373.
Dr. Jon Ellerbush is the superintendent of Royalton Schools.