Labor 2022 Election Results
Voters pass 5 of 12 school levies endorsed by MRLF,
budget cuts loom
St. Michael-Albertville’s Middle School West. With school district voters voting no on both school levy ballot questions this year, the school district’s website warned of increased class sizes, the loss of 30-35 full-time staff positions, the elimination of middle school athletics and activities, and cuts to high school athletics and activities.
Adapted from the Minneapolis Labor Review, November 19, 2022
By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor
MINNEAPOLIS — Faced with inadequate financial support from the state of Minnesota, local school districts turned to voters once again to seek voter support for school funding measures on the November 8 ballot. The Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO endorsed 12 school ballot questions in seven school districts.
Voters in the Bloomington, Orono and Osseo school districts passed all their ballot questions.
Voters in the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, New Prague Area, and St. Michael-Albertville districts rejected all their ballot questions.
In the Delano school district, voters passed a renewal of an operating levy but rejected an additional operating levy.
Altogether, among the seven districts, voters passed only five of the 12 ballot questions.
The failed ballot measures will result in program cuts and staff cuts as well as higher class sizes, impacting student learning.
In the Bloomington school district (ISD #271), voters supported the renewal of a technology levy with a whopping 73.32 percent voting yes and 26.68 percent voting no. The levy renews an expiring levy for another 10 years and will not result in a tax increase.
Having the existing technology levy in place enabled the district to be ready for remote learning when the pandemic hit, noted Wendy Marczak, president of the Bloomington Federation of Teachers. Every student from 3rd grade on up already had a Chromebook provided by the district. “We were more ready than a lot of districts were,” Marczak said. “We’ve gotten good feedback about how we handled the pandemic and how the technology helped with that.”
Marczak said the renewed levy will help maintain the district’s technology capacities, including building security.
In the Delano school district (ISD #879), two questions were on the ballot. Voters passed Question 1, with 53.90 percent voting yes and 46.1 percent voting no. Voters rejected Question 2, however, with 48.08 percent voting yes and 51.92 voting no: the margin of the defeat for Question 2 was only 249 votes out of 6,471 votes cast.
Question 1 will replace and increase an expiring operating levy and will result in a tax increase of $100 per year on a $350,000 home.
Question 2, which depended on Question 1 passing, also was an operating levy would have resulted in an additional tax increase of $122 per year on a $350,000 home.
With the failure of Question 2, the district’s website stated that cuts of about $360,000 will be needed for the 2023-2024 school year, equivalent to five full-time staff positions. These cuts will follow $1.7 million in cuts the past four fiscal years.
Voters rejected both of the two proposed operating levies in the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted school district (ISD #2687). Question 1 failed to pass by a vote of 2,448 to 2,054. Question 2 failed to pass by a vote of 2,552 to 1,964.
Question 1 would have replaced a levy that expired in 2020 and also would have replaced an existing operating levy that is set to expire. The district’s website noted that voters had previously approved the amounts in Question 1.
If Question 1 failed, the district warned, a $691,000 annual budget shortfall would lead to staff cuts and higher class sizes.
Question 2, an additional Operating Levy, required question 1 to pass.
With both levies failing to pass, the school district’s website previewed $900,000 or more in budget cuts that could result, including cuts to teaching positions, support staff, athletics and activities, transportation and facilities, and academic programs.
In the Orono school district (ISD #278), voters overwhelmingly passed a technology levy renewal. The vote was 67.32 percent in favor, 32.68 percent opposed.
Voters in the Osseo school district (ISD #279) passed two ballot questions, an operating levy and a technology levy. Question 1, the operating levy, passed by a vote of 54.42 percent to 45.5 percent. Question 2, the technology levy, passed more narrowly: 50.21 percent to 49.79 percent. The winning margin for Question 2 was just 229 votes out of 55,559 votes cast.
This year was the first time in 10 years that the Osseo district went to voters with a new levy request, noted Kelly Wilson, president of Education Minnesota-
Osseo. Question 1 revoked and replaced the current levy, which was due to expire, with a new levy for the next 10 years.
Wilson cited a new report about school funding in Minnesota by North Star Policy Action, “Losing Ground: State Disinvestment in Students.” The report found that per pupil state funding has fallen 20 percent over the past 20 years, when factoring in inflation. “Unfortunately, that means we have to go for levies and everybody else has to go for levies,” Wilson said.
New Prague Area
Voters in the New Prague Area school district resoundingly defeated two school ballot questions. Question 1, an operating levy, failed by a vote of 60.35 percent to 39.65 percent. Question 1 would have revoked an existing operating levy and replaced it with a levy generating about 250 percent more revenue.
Question 2, a technology levy, failed by a vote of 59.68 percent to 40.32 percent. If both levies had passed, the district estimated the impact on a $300,000 home would have been $19.25 per month for six years. With the failure of both requests, the school district estimated $4 million in budget cuts will be needed.
Voters in the St. Michael-Albertville school district (ISD #885) rejected two operating levies that were on the November 8 ballot. Question 1 failed by a vote of 55.31 percent to 44.69 percent. Question 2 failed by a vote of 56.41 percent to 43.59 percent.
The district already had faced significant cuts after a 2021 levy request failed, noted Bob Zahler, 16-year district teacher and president of Education Minnesota St. Michael-Albertville, who was interviewed before the November 8 election.
This year, the district came back with a smaller ask of taxpayers in both the amount and duration of the levies, hoping to appease the 2021 “no” vote side.
Zahler reported 4th grade classes currently as high as 34 students and classes as high as 40 students in junior and senior high.
With the failure of both ballot questions, the school district’s website warned of increased class sizes, the loss of 30-35 full-time staff positions, the elimination of middle school athletics and activities, and cuts to high school athletics and activities.
“The motto of our school district is ‘excellence is our tradition,’” Zahler said, adding, “that tradition is based on the ability to have reasonable class sizes so we can meet the needs of kids.”
“People choose this community because our schools have good reputations,” said Zahler, who grew up in the district. “Supporting schools and making sure your schools are competitive is how you maintain your property values… Why would you not support schools?”
Note: The St. Michael-Albertville Legislative Action Team has announced a community meeting to discuss school funding and plan advocacy efforts for the 2023 session of the Minnesota legislature. The meeting will be Wednesday, December 7, from 7:00-8:00 p.m. in the auditorium at STMA’s Middle School West, 11343 50th St. NE, Albertville.
For more information, visit stma.k12.mn.us/legislativeaction
Flyer for St. Michael-Albertville Legislative Action Team meeting.