Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Resounding "Yes": The Minnetonka School District Referenda

Two SD 276 levies passed with wide margins yesterday: A general operating levy (65%) and a technology levy (64%). A quick scan of the Star Tribune's election results shows that of the 65 metro-area school referendum questions on the ballot, only one school levy question (Edina - 72%) passed with more support than the two in Minnetonka.

There could be several theories on why this occured. It may be that the tax neutrality of the deal made it easy to vote for. Or perhaps the "Yes for Excellence" campaign was incredibly effective.

In scanning the election results, a correlation emerges: The two districts who supported their referenda by the largest margins, Edina and Minnetonka, happen to also be two of the top ten academic districts in the state. I'm not arguing a causal relationship -- I don't understand enough about the innards of school operations to do so. I just find it an interesting correlation.

The chicken-or-the-egg question comes in to play: Are these two districts really as good as they are because voters support spending tax dollars on them, or do voters feel better about their "yes" vote to a levy because of the pride of already having a great school district? Or maybe the same effective management of the district which persuaded us that these levies were truly necessary does a great job in other aspects of district management as well. The message of "this well-run district only asks for money when it truly needs to -- and this year it truly needs to" resounded with many, I believe.

Now that the levies passed, it will be important for the community to stay engaged with district. The district should continue to show us that funds are used wisely, innovation doesn't end, new ways to stretch an education dollar so it can impact more kids sought out and found. If they do, the next time they come with a similar referendum, whether it is 3 years or 10 years down the road, it will be another no-brainer for the community.

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