HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
September 24, 2007, Herald Journal

Get the facts straight

By KRISTEN MILLER

After sitting in on a levy committee meeting, I became aware of some misconceptions concerning the Dassel Cokato School District.

Some of these include the new Parent Portal software that was purchased and introduced last year.

The question was, “How was this paid for?” implying the school district spent its own money on new software when that money could’ve been spent elsewhere.

Having written the article last spring, I clearly stated the money came from Microsoft money, which school districts received from a settlement.

This is just one example of how information is translated and then redistributed.

It’s like telephone. One person reads something then tells another, and another and another. Somewhere along the telephone line, information gets lost and misconstrued.

This is how misconceptions and false information are formed.

Being a school reporter and writing the articles concerning the school district, whether it be school board or other areas, I have a general idea of how the system operates.

Sitting in on every school board meeting for the last two years, I am not an expert on school finances, but I’ve got a basic understanding.

School funding is very complex and can be very confusing. The district cannot spend money wherever it feels necessary; there are areas including special education that require certain funding, also called state or federal mandates, which districts must follow.

The board cannot run rampant with state funding, it must be wise and distributed accordingly.

Now, this fall, the school district is going to the taxpayers asking them for a levy to be used for basic education and operation.

This is a levy for learning and education, not to be mistaken with a bond that is for building or expansions (No, the district is not building an ice arena).

Having been through two failed levies I know how touchy the subject is. But as privileged voters, it is our responsibility to get the facts straight.

Also, having covered every school board meeting in the past two years (twice a month – the schedule is online), I noticed little to no community members there trying to understand how the business of education works.

A person can’t always believe what they hear at the coffee shop or from their next door neighbor.

If something sounds outrageous and untrue, in most cases it probably is.

And if there are any questions or uncertainties there are ways to get the facts and the truth.

One should be attending a school board meeting.