The Anoka-Hennepin School District will continue to seek funding streams to extend mental health and other student supports beyond next school year, after district residents rejected a proposed $11 million levy earlier this month.
About 55% of voters opposed the proposed new levy, but voters gave the nod to renewal of existing operating and capital improvement levies, with about 60% of voters in favor of each.
Some recently added student supports are funded by one-time federal money received in July, but those dollars are expected to run out in June 2023.
The district added 20 counselors and social workers across the district to help students with their social, emotional and mental health needs. Anoka-Hennepin also used some of the federal funds to help the district’s youngest students with learning.
“We have intentionally worked to lower our class sizes for grades K-3 and provided more support directly related to helping those earliest learners feel confident about their reading skills and their academic skills,” Superintendent David Law said.
The counselor-to-student ratio at Anoka-Hennepin used to be about 500 students per counselor. Now it’s closer to 400-450 students per counselor, Law said.
National recommendations aim for 300 students to every counselor, Law said.
In theory, Anoka-Hennepin could ask voters for the funding again next year, Law said, but that’s up to the School Board.
“Everywhere I go, people acknowledge that anxiety and mental health are issues that are plaguing our community — certainly with tragic things like suicides, but also just daily challenges where students are preoccupied with things,” Law said. “People expect schools to have those resources and are frustrated when we don’t.”
For now the district will continue seeking out other opportunities for funding, Law said.
At the state level, Anoka-Hennepin has prioritized asking the Legislature to increase funding per pupil for the Safe Schools levy, which can be used for mental health initiatives.
“We have been looking for ways to fund these things without going to the community for several years,” Law said. “And this was just one opportunity, as we were asking the community for a commitment to our schools to consider this spend.”