The Minnesota School Boards Association (MSBA) executive director and deputy executive director reaffirmed their commitment to St. Michael-Albertville’s plight for equity in school funding.
The school board also discussed the possibility of conducting future school board primary elections, and discussed support for a County Rd. 119 improvement project.
MSBA Executive Director Bob Meeks and Deputy Executive Director Kirk Schneidawind spoke to the board.
At the board’s previous meeting, STMA members contemplated whether the MSBA was representing the district’s best interest for more equitable school funding, since MSBA also represents the school districts that receive the most funding.
Meeks said the MSBA has been working closely with Schools for Funding in Education (SEE) during the current legislative session. He said school funding is a very complex issue, especially for districts that don’t have property wealth.
Meeks said he served on the Governor’s Education Task Force and while MSBA supports some of the governor’s recommendations, it does not endorse the report. Meeks assured the board that MSBA is representing STMA in the current legislative session.
STMA board chairperson Doug Birk reaffirmed that funding equity is STMA’s primary concern, and that the district is currently 10th from the bottom in the state for school funding. Birk said it behooves the board to fight more, harder and faster for equal funding for STMA’s students.
Birk also stated concern that the district could move even lower in the state rank on revenue per pupil with the proposed legislative funding changes.
In related matters, Birk recommended the board conduct a work session prior to the Feb. 19 board meeting to discuss legislative priorities and communication to community members.
Supt. Jim Behle said communication has already begun with the public, including an editorial published Jan. 31 in Crow River News. Behle said Schools for Equity in Education is organizing parent and community groups to lobby their legislators at the Capitol.
SEE asked STMA to participate at a future date, and Behle said he is working to gather a small group of interested stakeholders to participate.
In other news, the board discussed whether STMA should conduct a primary school board election.
Supt. Behle said 20 school districts in the state conduct primaries. He said Albertville and St. Michael indicated they would not charge the district to conduct a primary in conjunction with the city primary election, but that the district would be responsible for publishing legal notices.
If the district wants to be subject to the primary election law, the board must adopt a resolution by April 15 of the first year the board wishes to be subject to the primary law. The resolution is in effect for all ensuing elections until it is revoked. Behle said even if the board opts into the system to conduct a primary, state statute mandates the primary can only be held if more than two candidates file for a specified board position, or more than twice as many school board candidates as there are at-large positions available.
Behle said it does not appear as though the district has consistently had twice as many school board candidates as at-large openings, and does not recommend adding a primary.
The board agreed to revisit this topic in January next year.
COUNTY RD. 119 SAFETY
In further matters, Supt. Behle said he was approached by Wright County Commisioner Mike Potter regarding the Wright County Rd. 119 improvement project. County Rd. 119 branches off County Rd. 35 just west of County Rd. 19 and is commonly used to access Jamision Avenue where the high school is located.
An overlay is planned this summer, and Potter asked STMA to write a letter to the county in support of safety improvements on County Rd. 119. He recommends softening the curves in the road and would like the trail moved to the north side of the road.
Supt. Behle said he spoke with St. Michael Community Development Director Marc Weigle, who indicated the city would be required to pay half the project cost based on current county policy.
Behle added that there is no immediate concern from the district or its transportation company regarding the road and student safety, but said softening the curves would make the road safer.
The board directed Behle to speak with St. Michael City Administrator Steve Bot and Potter regarding the road and the school district’s hesitance to financially obligate St. Michael. The board also asked Behle to convey to Potter its encouragement for a change in the policy for safety updates to the county roads funding formula.