Often, statements regarding the upcoming school levy from the “vote no” camp contain the following sentiments: the system for funding schools is unfair, I’m still mad about the 2017 bond referendum, I don’t like open enrollment, I pay too much in taxes, etc.
Perhaps “no” voters think that a defeated levy will teach someone a lesson. But the lesson will not be learned by the legislature since STMA is simply one of 330 districts. The lesson will not be learned by those who voted for the bond referendum as those facilities are already being used. The lesson will not be learned by those who open-enroll kids as they don’t get to vote on this levy. While taxes will not go up if the levy fails, the lesson taught there is that people would rather see class sizes increase further and youth programs eliminated. No one will be punished by a defeated levy other than the kids. Sacrificing to educate kids has never been easy.
In the 1960s there was a push by the state to consolidate small districts. State officials wanted the kids of St. Michael and Albertville to be divided up between Buffalo, Monticello, and Elk River. Our two communities merged their separate school boards to create STMA in 1964 and then built a grades 1-9 building. When they were forced to add high school grades, they did that too, at the cost of closing the Catholic high school.
I tell those who seemed surprised to hear of our financial difficulties that STMA is a gilded district. We have nice facilities that the community built for the kids, but scratch the surface, and you find a system that operates frugally. We are an admired district because of the work of students, parents, and staff who created the tradition of excellence, but that excellence is also built on the sacrifice of those who said that what we invest in our kids’ futures will be our legacy. The levy vote is not about facilities. It’s about maintaining excellence and honoring the sacrifice of those who came before us. That’s the lesson.
Bob Zahler- teacher, union president and local historian, St. Michael