Our vision as a school community is to be the school district of choice, inspiring excellence in academics, arts, and activities. We strive to do this every day by empowering students with knowledge and skills to succeed. As a school district, it is our responsibility to advocate for, and educate others about what is needed to maintain, and enhance the educational opportunities available for the children of our community. The 2017-19 state biennial budget proposed by the state legislature presents serious challenges for our school district in order to maintain the quality services that exist, as well as creating new opportunities for our students.
The BOE has consistently demonstrated a high level of fiscal stewardship. As with other schools nearby and across the state, we have had to make difficult decisions to redirect resources to areas found to be most important to meeting the needs of students in the classroom, beginning with making sure we have quality teachers, and that we are offering a rigorous and relevant curriculum that ensures our students are learning at high levels. At the same time, our school district remains financially sound with a strong general fund that minimizes the need to short-term borrow in order to pay our monthly bills.
However, the ability to sustain the level of services our parents and community members have come to expect continues to be increasingly difficult. New mandated programs and services continue to require us to prioritize what will make the greatest impact on student learning, and then discontinue programs and services that may have a less direct impact on students in the classroom. At the same time, we are not satisfied with simply maintaining the status quo for our students. We want to do more for our students so that they are able to enjoy learning experiences that will prepare them well for a successful future.
I have found over the years that school finance is quite complex, and it is not getting any easier to understand. However, I encourage you to remain informed as the state budget process moves forward and its specific impact on public school funding. Three areas of concern included in the House and/or Senate versions of the E-12 Education Bill I believe could have a significant impact on our district include the amount going towards the General Education Formula, increasing tax dollars to help fund private schools, and eliminating all funding for voluntary pre-kindergarten.
First, the House and Senate proposals invest significant lower amounts to public education when compared to the Governor’s proposal. The General Education Formula has a significant impact on the state funding amount for our school district. Currently, the Governor is proposing a 2% increase each year on the formula compared to the House’s proposal of 1.25% each year and the Senate’s proposal of 1.5% each year. The increase levels in both the House and Senate proposals will create greater challenges in our ability to sustain our current programming.
Second, both the House and Senate versions of the E-12 Education Bill include an increase in public tax dollars going towards funding private or non-public education. In order for this to happen, funding for public schools that welcome and educate all students will be negatively impacted.
Third, the House budget proposal eliminates all funding for voluntary pre-kindergarten. We need to increase opportunities for our youngest learners by providing an opportunity to attend pre-kindergarten. The House proposal suggests we should not invest in early education; while at the same time, the State is requiring school districts to make sure all students are ready for kindergarten as part of the World’s Best Workforce Plan that each public school district must adopt.
There are provisions included in both versions of the education bill that could have a positive impact on our school community beginning with providing a tax credit for agricultural land, excluding the house, garage, and surrounding one acre of land of an agricultural homestead, equal to between 40 and 50% of the tax on the property (for bond referenda).
While I recognize there are many needs across the state demanding increased funding, I will continue to advocate for our children’s educational future. The NRHEG Public Schools has a long and proud tradition of doing what is right for the children in our communities. The state biennial budget being considered by our elected officials will require us to make hard decisions that will impact the level of services our school community enjoys today. It is my hope that our state continues to put kids first.
A reminder that the School Board conducts its regular monthly meeting on the third Monday of each month. The location of the meeting is rotated monthly between the NRHEG Secondary School Media Center in New Richland and the NRHEG Elementary School Media Center in Ellendale. The April 17, 2017 School Board meeting will be at the Secondary School beginning at 6:30 p.m., and the May 15, 2017 School Board meeting will be at the Elementary School beginning at 6:30 p.m.
We celebrate together in the accomplishments of our students because we are in this journey together as a school community. Thank you for all you do to support NRHEG Public Schools and our students!