The school votes

My colleague Paul Tosto has sent this to me. Paul knows of what he speaks, having been the education reporter at the PiPress for many years. He’ll be following these races this evening.

While most voters are focused tonight on national races, there are some local school votes underway that could bring dramatic changes to districts across Minnesota. Some may end up having to merge with neighbor districts or perhaps even dissolve. Here’s a quick look at three:

McLeod West: The football team team in this school district west of Minneapolis was celebrated on ESPN and CBS News recently for its scrappy winning ways even though it can only field 19 players. But the declining enrollment that’s emptied the football team may also spell the end of the district if the levy doesn’t pass. According to the McLeod County Chronicle: Even if the levy passes, the district will only be able to offer a K-6 school and will need to send its high school students to other districts for at least the five years it will take to pay off the district’s $2 million debt.

Minneapolis schools. It’s hard to believe but enrollment in Minneapolis public schools has fallen about 30 percent since the start of the decade. That’s a lot of students and money leaving the system. If the levy fails tonight, the district predicts a $30 million from the annual budget that could translate to layoffs of up to 350 teachers and significant class size increases. Anti-levy opponents are apparently being helped by an Iowa-based consultant who’s been credited with killing levies in other towns.

St. Francis: It’s been five years since this small north metro district approved a levy. If backers don’t win tonight, the district predicts a nearly 20 percent budget cut for the high school and middle school.

No matter what happens, many districts in Minnesota are going to be fighting enrollment decline for the next few years. High school graduations are expected to peak next year and decline steadily after that with a 10 percent drop forecast between 2005 and 2015. That’s a lot of revenue leaving faster than most districts are able to cut.

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