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HLWW board debates school funding with state rep.

December 24, 2007

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

Spicy conversation colored the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School Board meeting Monday.

State Representative Dean Urdahl spoke to the board about last session’s legislation and the coming year’s session, and then fielded questions from board members about education funding.

“We did a $800 million education bill. Historically, it’s far above the average amount we appropriate in any biennium, but there’s still problems this time because we changed it a little,” Urdahl explained.

“This time, we put about $320-some million into special education, which left considerably less money for the formula,” Urdahl said.

That formula, largely based on each school district’s property values, dictates how much state aid each school district receives.

“About 206 school districts get more money than you (HLWW) and about 134 get less,” Urdahl told the school board.

“For test scores you (HLWW) ranked 51st in the state, so 50 school districts did better than you and roughly 285 did worse. So that’s pretty good. You should be commended in having excellent scores and coupling that with the fact that you (HLWW) are on the low end for funding,” he added.

HLWW Supt. George Ladd told Urdahl that the board has to make $450,000 in cuts because the district has just lost a local levy.

“We’re underfunded (by the state). There’s a fairness issue statewide. You know that. Every one of your districts get hit hard. We can’t keep asking the taxpayers for money. It’s begging at this point. How can we turn this around?” Ladd asked Urdahl.

“What’s happening now is committees are being formed. They’re going to look into the formulas – we have all these formulas,” Urdahl said.

“Yes, we have to hire a specialist just to figure out the formulas,” Ladd said.

“We shouldn’t punish a kid for being born in the HLWW school district versus Herman-Norcross or Edina,” he added.

“Students here are worth just as much, but because they have higher property values in those areas, they get more funding,” Urdahl said.

“It doesn’t help that the news media, based in the metro area, reports that those schools that get the large state aid waste a lot of money, School Board Member Al Doering said. “People think we must be doing the same thing out here as those schools, but we don’t get that kind of money,” he added.

“Every year the legislature says the same thing and nothing gets done. Forget where the school is located,” Doering said.

“No, you’re right,” Urdahl said. “In terms of what I can do is encourage legislatures to support a fair plan,” he said.

Dialog with Urdahl lasted about a half an hour, and then the board turned to its usual matters.

Odds and ends

In other matters, the board:

• heard that construction of the new high school is still on track for the February move.

• tabled a resolution to authorize a special mail-in ballot election to spend more time organizing the effort, but decided that an April election would be preferable.

• approved the 2007, payable in 2008, levy limitation and certification in the amount of $3,163,377.

• accepted the resignation of Glee Main from the food service casher/assistant position, and the resignation of Jodi Woyke from the truancy position.

• approved the hire of Stephen Smart as the food service casher/assistant position at Humphrey Elementary.

• approved a lane change for Kathryn Wilson from BA15 to BA30.

• heard that the middle school parent-teacher conferences were well attended with about a 95 percent turnout. Most of the remaining 5 percent of parents rescheduled a conference.

• heard that the high school parent-teacher conferences were not well attended, but also heard that with the implementation of the “school view” online service which enhances parent-teacher communication, that parents felt they were on top of things.

“Their (the parents) needs seem to be met at this time – that’s what I’m hearing,” High School Principal Mike Day said.

• heard from Day that students are starting to inquire about their lockers at the new high school.

“It’s fun to listen to them. Lockers are their home away from home. The fact that they’re talking about them – that means they’re ready to go,” Day said.

• rescheduled the next regular board meeting for Tuesday, Jan. 22 due to the Martin Luther King holiday on that Monday.