St. Michael-Albertville School School District invites stakeholders to Legislation Action Team

STMA joined the Lake Conference in fiscal year 2020. While STMA is similar to districts in the Lake Conference in academics, arts, activities and athletics, in funding ranking they are very different. The Dec. 8 STMA Legislative Action team meeting asks district community members to help the district make changes to their ranking. (Photo courtesy of St. Michael-Albertville School District)

The St. Michael-Albertville School District has been advocating for equitable school funding at the state level, but wishes to involve the community and stakeholders’ voices by starting a Legislation Action Team.

The first meeting will be 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 8 at St. Michael-Albertville Middle School West in the auditorium. St. Michael-Albertville Schools is one of the lowest funded districts for per-pupil revenue in the state ranking 325 out of 327 in a recent study. The school is one of the lowest-ranked districts due to a state funding formula that gives more money to districts that the state deems ‘higher-need’ or ‘poorer’ districts. The Action Team’s goal is to change the legislation that causes the inequity.

“We’ve been trying for years to advocate with legislators and governors for equitable school funding,” Superintendent Ann-Marie Foucault said. “We are one of the lowest funded districts in the state. The School of Equity for Education recently released a new ranking and [St. Michael-Albertville School District] ranked 325 out of 327 out of Minnesota school districts. That really affects our kids and the opportunities our kids have in our schools.”

Those who participate in the Legislative Action Team can look forward to going to the State Capital, writing to legislators about bills that could help the school district and attending the 2022 Legislative Forum at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 19 at the elementary school, 214 First Avenue NE, Buffalo.

“I’m hoping people will come out,” Foucault said. “Legislators want to hear from stakeholders. They want to hear stories that are personal.”

Parents, students and community members are welcome to join the team or just come to Dec. 8 meeting to learn more about how they can affect change on their own. At the first meeting, Foucault will speak about the inequitable legislation and what affects the state ranking. Deb Griffith, a parent in the Centennial School District who helped lead that district’s Action Team will also be sharing their successes.

The Action Team will be run by its members who will dictate how they conduct meetings, how often the team will meet and what they will achieve each meeting. A leader or co-leader will hopefully be elected in the first meeting as well.

“I want to make sure this group has a chance to get together and then my hope is they take this and run with it,” Foucault said. “It’ll be determined if a member steps up and leads this group. Our staff and I will certainly support the group, but we aren’t looking to lead the group.”

The school district has tried to start action groups in the past, but they have fizzled out. Due to the failure of the recent operating levy request, Foucault hopes that those who learned about the inequitable state funding will be inspired to do more and join the team.

“We’ve tried for years, former superintendents tried, I’ve tried and we just can’t make any headway with it,” Foucault said. “We’ve also tried to form a parent and staff advocacy group and it seems to fizzle, but I’m hoping from the momentum of the failed operating levy in November we can’t get some momentum and excitement going and we can really advocate for our kids at the capitol this year.”

The state ranking does affect the amount of funding that the school district receives.

“We receive $8,073 per pupil and the state average per pupil is $9,499. That is $1,426 less, or 15% per pupil,” Foucault said. “And when you multiply $1,426 approximately by our enrollment that’s approximately $9.4 million a year. That’s outrageous. When you think of $9.4 million a year, that’s the equivalent of 125 teachers. If we were getting the average in the state of Minnesota we would have 125 more teachers.”

The formation of Action Teams and contacting local elected officials has statistically shown to help persuade legislators. According to the Congressional Management Foundation, in-person visits are 94% successful, email with a personalized message describing impact is 92% successful, letters with a personalized message describing impact are 88% successful, a phone call is 84% successful, form email is 56% successful and a form letter is 50% successful.

“The bottom line is every voice matters. If we are going to enact change, we need everyone in the community helping us because our voices as one are not very loud, but together they’re very loud and our kids deserve it,” Focault said.

To find out more about the Legislative Action Team go to stma.k12.mn.us/domain/2440.

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