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Viewpoint: Training, hands-on learning at heart of referendum

By Karsten Anderson, superintendent of Red Wing Public Schools

Our core mission at Red Wing Public Schools is to serve every student's needs from pre-K through grade 12 so they reach their full potential — no matter what path they pursue after graduation. To get there, we must strive to make sure that every child is career ready, college ready and life ready upon graduation, so they can make the choice that is best for them.

This focus is why there are two referendum questions on the ballot Nov. 6.

In my previous column, I went over how Question 1 will provide the funding needed to sustain our current level of educational programming and keep pace with increased costs of education. We will be able to maintain class size targets; keep our vocational and other elective offerings; and maintain other important services and programs.

This column focuses on Question 2, which enable us to prepare all students to be ready for career, college, and life after high school. Based on the School Board's plan, passage of Question 1 and 2 will provide more vocational training and hands-on learning opportunities. Students will earn more industry certificates while in high school and participate in apprenticeships and internships in local businesses. In addition, supports will be used to enhance reading and math achievement and enhance school climate through improved mental health and behavioral supports.

If Questions 1 and 2 are approved, our students will be better prepared for life after graduation, producing positive ripple effects throughout Red Wing. Local businesses will have a deeper talent pool for hiring because local graduates will possess needed hands-on training and experience. The community, in turn, will attract and retain more talent due to a stronger education system.

However, it is up to Red Wing residents to decide if this is a worthwhile investment when they vote on both operating levy questions on this fall's ballot. For the owner of a median-valued home ($168,900 for taxes paid in 2019), taxes would increase by about $11.35 per month if only Question 1 passes and another $7.32 per month if Question 2 also passes. These amounts may be affected by changes in valuation in other types of property.

The School Board has considered how to manage the district's resources if both ballot questions fail. Without the funding provided by Question 1, the district would face over $3 million in proposed budget reductions. There will be challenging choices to make and significant changes in how we educate. I will explain these consequences in an upcoming column.

In the meantime, I encourage you to learn more about our plan at WingersSoar.org. There, you will find the information you need to make an informed vote, including details about the school plan, its intended benefits and the tax impact on local property owners.

You can share your thoughts and ask questions by emailing me at klanderson@rwps.org or calling 651-385-4502. Members of the School Board and I will do all we can to explain the plan and answer any of your questions.