A group of parents, superintendents and school board members from Royalton and Melrose area schools traveled to the Minnesota State Capitol to meet with area legislators, Feb. 20. Deb Griffiths from Schools for Equity in Education (SEE) hosted the day, arming the delegation with buttons, posters and education funding details. SEE is an association of 62 Minnesota School Districts that represents nearly 250,000 students, including those from the Melrose and Royalton area schools. SEE works to advocate for equity and adequacy in K-12 education funding and policy.
The parents asked legislators to fund schools fairly for all students no matter the ZIP code. With the heavy reliance on school levies to make up for inadequate state funding, the emphasis was on making school levies more affordable in low property wealth districts.
The cost to the taxpayer for a levy dollar is based on the individual property wealth of the district. Without significant commercial and industrial development to broaden the tax base, taxpayers in low property wealth districts like Royalton and Melrose pay three times as much as their peers in high property wealth districts for identical revenue for their schools. For example, the state allows school districts to have school levies up to $1,633 per pupil. The annual cost to a taxpayer per $100,000 of property value in a high property wealth school district for this levy amount is $151. The cost escalates to $515 for residents in Royalton and $450 in the Melrose area.
Because of the disparities in the cost of a levy dollar, districts like Royalton and Melrose have many fewer school levy dollars to support the needs of their students. The widening educational opportunity gap puts students in districts like Royalton, Melrose, Delano, St. Michael-Albertville, Maple Lake, Elk River, Annandale, Anoka-Hennepin, Waconia, Monticello, Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted and Buffalo at a distinct disadvantage, as they will compete for college placement and jobs with all students across the state.
The parents urged the legislators to support several bills that would lower the school levy cost for taxpayers in SEE school districts.
These school advocates also urged the legislators to provide inflationary increases to basic school funding. The group wants their schools to be able to maintain class sizes and program offerings for their students. Without additional funding to keep up with rising costs, cuts are likely, they told legislators.
The group met with area Representatives Joe Radinovich, Ron Kresha and Paul Anderson, and Senators Torrey Westrom and Paul Gazelka
As part of its efforts, SEE has put together a three-minute video to help inform and educate the public on the equity issue. To view the video, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Thailal4iZs.
For more information, visit www.schoolsforequity.org.