Editorial: Schools should not have to fight for pupils

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 24, 2002

Public schools have been living on the scraps from the state’s table for years, and it’s probably no surprise that districts are now resorting to basically fighting each other for what little state funding there is.

It’s been commonplace for smaller districts like Alden-Conger, which has been very successful in its efforts, to attract a good number of students to their school via open enrollment. State law says that students can attend the school of their choice, even if they don’t live in the district. Alden-Conger even offers bus service to Albert Lea to pick up kids.

Now, the Albert Lea School District has increased its efforts in trying to bring in students from outside their district’s borders. They’re offering buses to other areas to pick up kids, going into other districts’ territory to find students, and the $5,000 in funding each new recruit brings.

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With virtually every school in the Albert Lea area facing drops in enrollment, this kind of competition for students has no end in sight.

But it’s a shame that schools must resort to fishing for students in order to find that extra funding they need. It illustrates, again, how broken the school funding system is. With the state looking at a budget deficit this year, it’s probably not realistic to expect any more improvements in school funding than we’ve seen in the last few years.

So local schools will wind up turning to more creative ways to get by; at least two Freeborn County districts, Albert Lea and Glenville-Emmons, will put levy referenda before voters this fall, for instance.

And we will probably see competition for students continue.