Herald JournalHerald Journal, August 29, 2004

Urdahl gives HLWW update on education legislation

By Jenni Sebora

Education legislation highlighted the agenda at last Monday’s Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School Board meeting, with a visit from State Representative Dean Urdahl.

Urdahl informed the board about bills passed in the last legislative session.

“The governor signed some education bills, but we did not do nearly as much as we could have or should have,” Urdahl commented.

Some bills that were signed include

• the new social studies and science standards,

• house process to enable teachers to become higher qualified as part of the No Child Left Behind Policy and allowing teachers to teach beyond their content area,

• requirement of life science assessments in grades 10th through 12th by the 2007-08 school year,

• an increase from $5,000 to $8,000 in possible earnings that a school board member can earn serving his or her district.

Urdahl also pointed out that there were a lot of items not adopted on the education bill, including revenue increases. Urdahl commented that he is especially concerned with special education and early childhood funding.

“The governor’s goal is to have every child read by third grade, and if early childhood is not funded appropriately, this goal will be hard to reach.”

$180 million from public schools was cut. Urdahl noted that it was not from the core of education, though. “2005 is a budget setting year. Even the most conservative members in congress agree that the legislature can’t go four straight years without increasing the funding for education,” Urdahl said.

It was pointed out by the board that the state needs to look at how schools are funded to make it more equitable. Urdahl said that HLWW gets $8,449 per pupil from state, local, and federal funding versus for example, Brown’s Valley which receives a little over $14,000 per pupil.

The issue of open enrollment was brought up by board member, Charles Weber.

He questioned whether it could ever be appealed. HLWW school district loses money when students that open enroll to other districts, it was noted.

“It is here to stay. We just have to deal with it,” Superintendent George Ladd said. Urdahl agreed.

Board Member Lori Custer commented that the legislature is increasing programs and things that it wants schools to do, but not increasing revenue to support the new requirements.

Urdahl agreed and said that education is still the number one item in the budget. Approximately 40 percent of the state budget is spent on education. “The polls show that education is still the most important item that people prioritize,” Urdahl said.

Urdahl also informed the board of the list of rankings by revenue per pupil of all federal, state, and local revenue.

He noted that HLWW ranks 284 out of 341 school districts in Minnesota. “This is obviously near the bottom,” Urdahl said.

Urdahl also noted that HLWW seventh grade reading scores rank 93 and the seventh grade math scores rank 136 in the state.

“The state is getting its money’s worth for its spending,” Urdahl said. He further commented that this says good things about the students, staff, and school board at HLWW schools.

Operating Levy

With the amount of the levy being approved at the previous school board meeting, Ladd noted that the last variable to be decided upon is the length of the levy. This will be determined at the next board meeting.

A sample ballot and tax impact information were supplied to the board regarding the operating levy vote in November.

The information conveyed that on a $100,000 home/property, the estimated tax net increase would be $75 with the total estimated taxes being $95, payable in 2005.

The board questioned whether more understandable language could be added to the ballot to add clarity for the voters especially ones who have not read information on the operating levy.

Board Member Al Doering said that the tax impact on the ballot should be said in terms of “X” dollars per assessed value. Ladd said that he would look into this.

The issue of how and when to educate people in the district about the levy was also discussed.

“I don’t take this for granted. People need to be educated about this levy,” Hammer said.

The staff needs to be prepared and people in the community can help get information out as well, Hammer also said. It was suggested that people attending the community meetings may want to volunteer to help disperse information to the public.

Ladd noted that getting information out to the various businesses in the communities would be beneficial.

“What will be cut if it isn’t passed?” Weber questioned. “We need to be honest, but don’t threaten,” he added.

Custer noted that the web site could be a way to get information out to the communities also. Doering questioned whether there were any laws on what can be put on the web site. Ladd said that he would look into it.

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