Make school referendums rare or extinct

On Monday, Gov. Tim Walz gave reporters from Greater Minnesota an update on education spending. His office shared numbers that added up to good news for the Marshall Public Schools District.

While the Legislature continues to support prekindergarten funding, Walz is seeking more. He vowed to make pre-K a “cornerstone of his next budget.” Meanwhile, the Marshall district is receiving funding to maintain 72 voluntary pre-kindergarten spots, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.

Marshall will also receive an additional $2,128,316 in education funding over the biennium, including $1,201,390 in general education funding and $192,468 in special education. The increases should help the district navigate through another school year of possible rising enrollment.

However, it was a question by a reporter in Duluth that put the spotlight on an issue that causes the struggle between taxpayers and school districts. The reporter said in his region, three school districts have offered multiple failed referendums. The reporter asked the governor how can those school districts keep their schools operational and up-to-date.

Walz’s answer: Make those referendums either rare or extinct.

“We want funding across Minnesota that isn’t dependent on your property tax base, that your quality of education could still be there. We worked for some ways on the equalization funding.”

He also talked about how the past legislative session took more pressure off of farmers.

“It was an untenable situation where 70 percent of the tax money came from 10 percent of the base because of agriculture influence,” he said.

Walz said “we want to make sure that every child’s education is not dependent on those referendums.”

We agree with the governor’s quest to limit referendums and find a better way to update schools in rural Minnesota.

We look at the referendums approved by voters in school districts here in Marshall and Russell-Tyler-Ruthton. Both were approved, but not without exerting a lot of time and energy.

In Marshall, we noticed the slick videos featuring school officials and others connected to the district posted on Facebook before the election. And the colorful, large signs as voters walked to the polling area inside the Marshall Middle School on Election Day.

District officials are being put into the difficult position to inform voters. But it can appear to be campaigning for the need to update their facilities.

There has to be a better way to cover the expenses of costly needed updates to school facilities. At the same time, take the pressure off of property owners and school officials.

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