Viewpoint: Community engages in education conversations
By Karsten Anderson, superintendent of Red Wing Public Schools
Over the past several months, I have been able to engage many people with diverse perspectives about the school district's education plans and the referendum to invest in these initiatives. The experience has been a great one for me because it reinforced why Red Wing is such a special place to live and work.
The Red Wing School District is facing the several challenges. Over the past four years, we have made over $2.4 million in budget reductions. Our current school operating levy is set to expire at the end of the school year. At the same time, operating costs—especially transportation and unfunded mandates such as special education services—continue to climb.
Voters are being asked to consider two operating levy questions.
Question 1 seeks to renew and increase our current voter-approved operating levy that has not increased in 10 years. This question focuses on maintaining our current class size targets and existing programming as much as possible.
Passing Questions 1 and 2 will provide an additional investment to implement our educational plan. This plan focuses on career, college, and life readiness. Funding will be provided for more vocational programming, hands-on learning resources, internships in local businesses, and support for mental health, behavior, and academic achievement.
If Question 1 fails, we are projected to make an additional $3.2 million in budget reductions. The loss of over 20 teaching positions would increase class sizes. Vocational classes and other electives would be scaled back, and we would reduce support services for student discipline, guidance counseling, and academic achievement. Reductions would occur in athletic programs and extracurricular activities. The Tower View Alternative Learning Center, preschool programming, and transportation services would also be impacted.
These budget reductions assume no children would leave the district due to the changes. If we lost 5 percent of our student population to other schools, we would need to reduce our budget by another $1 million because state and federal funding is largely based on student enrollment.
One important reminder: The levy increases would be in place for only five years, so that the community can evaluate the results of their investment. There are no inflationary increases in either referendum, which means the per-pupil amount will remain the same unless there are legislative changes or another election.
As this critical election date approaches, 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.
In the end, this is a decision that local residents must make. Please share your thoughts and questions by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-385-4502. Members of the School Board and I will do all we can to explain the plan and answer your questions.
Again, I want to thank everyone in Red Wing for their consideration and I look forward to our next conversation.