Garrison Keillor, the great Minnesota author and radio personality, put it best: “Nothing you do for children is ever wasted.”
At the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, we’re putting Keillor’s words into action, working in support of five levy referendums in East Metro suburbs that have been endorsed by our delegation of 100-plus local unions. No matter where you live, if there’s a school levy question on your ballot Nov. 5, voting “yes” is the right thing to do for Minnesota’s students, teachers and communities.
Earlier this year, Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL majorities in the Legislature succeeded in increasing the per-pupil funding formula that provides the majority of funding for our school districts, and the state recently paid back most of the money borrowed from school districts in order to end the Republican-led state government shutdown two years ago. Still, the state funding formula has lagged behind the rate of inflation for decades, and operating levies have been a lifeline for districts looking to maintain their educational offerings.
What’s more, levies equip districts with the tools they need to strengthen their schools in ways that reflect local priorities. In Stillwater, voters will decide whether to approve $16.2 million in annual funding for the community-driven “Bridge to Excellence” plan, as well as initiatives to increase school safety and security. In White Bear Lake, voters will be asked to extend funding for library books, science equipment and technology for teachers and students. Voters in the Chisago Lakes School District have an opportunity to restore programs cut from previous budgets, including art classes and middle-school Spanish classes.
At the Regional Labor Federation, we are proud to support the teachers, parents and community groups working at the grassroots level to pass school levies in Stillwater, White Bear Lake and Chisago Lakes, as well as the Lakeville and Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school districts. We have reached out to union members in these districts, urging them to vote “yes.” We are also working to elect labor-endorsed candidates for school board across the East Metro. These candidates not only will support levy referendums when necessary, but will act as good stewards of funds raised when levies pass.
All children deserve a world-class education. Their futures depend on it, and so does the economic future of our region. The Twin Cities area is known across the world for its educated, highly skilled workforce. It’s a big reason that Minnesota boasts 19 Fortune 500 companies, more than 48 other states. When you vote “yes” on your local school levy referendum, you show your support for kids, for teachers, for attracting the jobs of the future to the region and for maintaining our state’s high quality of life.
– Bobby Kasper is president of the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, representing more than 100 affiliate unions and their members throughout the East Metro area.