Preparing the ballots

March 24, 2008

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

It takes a lot of time to prepare 5,211 mail-in ballots destined for Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School District residents’ mail boxes, but the task was finished late Wednesday, and the ballots were mailed Friday.

The ballots seek renewal of an expired operating levy, and are only sent to registered voters in the HLWW school district.

Any ballots returned with distinguishing marks other than “yes” or “no” can spoil the ballot, according to HLWW Superintendent’s Secretary Marilyn Greeley.

One false rumor that Greeley has heard with each school election is whether unreturned ballots are counted as “yes” ballots.

This is false. Ballots that aren’t returned at all are simply not counted. “You can’t count a ballot that you do not have,” Greeley said.

The ballots are kept in a locked room until 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 8.

“If a ballot comes in at 8:05 p.m. or 10 p.m., or the next day, it is not counted – it doesn’t even get opened,” Greeley explained.

There is a ballot box inside the district office for those wishing to personally drop off their ballots, instead of mailing them.

Many school districts looking for more funding

Nearly one-third of Minnesota school districts went to voters last November asking for more money, reported an article titled “An Equal Opportunity Education?” written for the University of Minnesota’s “Connect” publication.

In the article, Trout Lowen reports that, “In Minnesota, state dollars account for 79.9 percent of K–12 education funding – down 6.8 percentage points since 2002, when the state took over the bulk of education funding.”

“If the states don’t contribute a floor that is high enough,” said Associate Professor Nicola Alexander of the Department of Educational Policy and Administration, “then more and more districts are going to feel the need to have an add-on (funding source).”

Because a red flag was raised when so many schools levied last November, a task force has been created to overhaul the state’s education funding formula.

Co-chair of the task force, Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) said, “I can’t think of anyone on the task force who has said schools have enough.”

Lowen reported that two analyses were done recently by experienced educators with the first being a calculation of the resources needed to meet the federally mandated No Child Left Behind Adequate Yearly Progress Standards, and the other evaluated actual spending in districts that meet, or are on target to meet NCLB standards.

“In both analyses the state’s spending on education came up short, by $1.7 billion in the first model, and by $1 billion in the second. Minnesota’s school superintendents recently put the shortfall at $2 billion,” Greiling said.

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