Editorial: Second school vote appears to be inevitable

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 21, 2002

The results are in, and most of them look promising for the Albert Lea School District.

A survey, paid for by the school board out of its own expense fund, found that support for a levy referendum appears to be fairly solid, and that the public perception of Albert Lea Schools is good, despite all the negative energy that appeared to be generated by the last referendum, which failed badly.

This is all good news for the school and for the community. It suggests that if the school were to put a referendum on the ballot this year, it may have a better chance of passing.

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Perhaps it’s because people have seen the impact of the last round of cuts implemented after voters turned down last year’s funding request. Several teachers lost their jobs, elective programs were cut, non-athletic extracurriculars were slashed and sports were pared down.

In fact, the school really doesn’t have much of a choice. It must put a new referendum before voters. Barring a dramatic change in the legislature’s funding formula, going into next year without an approved levy means another million dollars or more in cuts, and maybe the premature closing of one of four elementary schools. Given the state’s budget crisis, it’s not realistic to think the state will be footing any more of the schools’ bill than it has been recently.

The survey results are an encouraging backdrop for the school board’s decision on a new referendum, which it will make Thursday during a special meeting. But the results also contain a warning: It found that the voters who were most in favor of the referendum were the ones least likely to vote. That’s the obstacle backers of the referendum did not overcome last year, and if history repeats itself, this year’s effort could also fail.