With the election season finally behind us and the start of the state legislative session just a month away, it is time to focus attention on advocating for our Patriot students with our MN legislators. Our local community has much to be proud of regarding the work of our local school board to establish a district culture of high expectations and disciplined fiscal management. They have worked in recent years to establish transparent and routine processes to maximize services provided by vendors, to manage construction projects tightly, and to stretch every dollar to benefit students as much as possible. As Patriots we can safely say that we get “more bang for each buck” than in most school districts.
While we can and should be proud of our school board’s efforts to be fiscally responsible, we should also be aware that the legislature has a constitutional responsibility to uphold our students’ right to a “general and uniform system of education” that requires state funding to ensure each student receives adequate education. Since 2003 our state has attempted to provide basic funding through two main mechanisms: the basic education formula and using equalization factors for various property tax supported formulas intended to equalize “tax effort” required of residents. Pequot Lakes Schools is currently receiving over $1,500 less per student than in 2003 in basic education revenue when adjusted for inflation. Most districts have filled this funding gap through voter approved operating levies of up to $4,400 per student; yet in districts like Pequot Lakes with a high percentage of seasonal/recreational property, the impact on local residents is far too great to make that a reasonable option. Funding schools through local property taxes therefore creates huge disparities in the funds available to educate students and fails to provide a “general and uniform system of education.” Please join me in advocating for our Patriot students by asking the legislature to increase the basic education formula to 2003 levels and to reduce the state’s dependence on local property taxes to fund basic education.
The winter storm on Nov. 18th was a harsh reminder that it’s time to remind everyone how school closing decisions are made and communicated. When weather is questionable, I will be in contact with our transportation director, public safety officials, and area superintendents. Our transportation director and/or I often choose to drive some of the most difficult roads to confirm conditions on the ground. Our goal is to make a decision by 5:30am, as we have employees rolling into work by that time. We will communicate the message to families and staff first through our automated phone calling system, and then through our district website and the following radio/TV stations: 107.5, 106.7, 93.3, 103.5, 102.7, 94.3, WCCO, KARE-11, KMSP (Fox 9), KSTP/KSAX, WDIO/WIRT TV, and www.cancellations.com. Please check these resources before calling the school offices as most staff will not be at work to answer the phones!
The decision to delay or close school is based on the safety of our students while also recognizing that any change of routine puts a significant strain on many families. Our excellent team of bus drivers will always put a safe bus ride ahead of an on-time bus ride. Parents have the right to keep children at home if they feel it is not safe to send them out. As a general rule, we will run school if we can get buses started and transport students safely.
-- Chris Lindholm, Superintendent of Schools