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Letter: It’s no surprise taxpayers rejected the referendum

Taxpayers have spoken and defeated the $35 million referendum that had been unanimously recommended by the Prior Lake-Savage School Board. The referendum failed for a number of reasons.

First, taxpayers see no accountability in the district – proficiency test scores of our students continue to decline even after giving the district more than $100 million in 2017 via a bond referendum plus a 37% increase to the cost/student operating levy. Giving every teacher and student a new personal device every four years or so isn’t going to reverse the poor proficiency trends.

Second, the school district continues to waste significant time and money on professional development for its staff related to social justice ideologies (such as culturally responsive teaching, social emotional teaching and using principles/tenets closely tied to critical race theory). By getting back to teaching the basics of reading, writing, math and science and stopping the social justice indoctrination will increase student proficiency scores.

Third, the district is not managing its finances prudently. Wanting to increase annual pre-COVID technology expenditures by more than 50% isn’t prudent. Paying consultants such as Nexus Solutions more than $24 million dollars over the past 10 years including more than $16 million since the 2017 referendum to manage facility projects is simply crazy and not prudent.

According to my calculations, the district’s government-wide expenditures during the past 5 fiscal years have grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.8% while ADM (average daily membership, also known as enrollment) has grown at only a 2.2% CAGR during that same time period. Even accounting for inflation, expenditures growing that much faster than enrollment is a sign that finances are not being managed properly.

Given those reasons, and others such as the controversial Commitment to Equity and Inclusion resolution passed by the school board late last year and the School Board’s dictatorial mask mandates for children rather than giving the choice to parents as to whether to mask their children, it is no wonder why the majority of taxpayers were not in the mood to give the district more money to spend.

On the night after the vote was in, the superintendent of PLSAS released a statement in which she said, “We now need to learn why our community voted no…”. I hope the superintendent reads this opinion piece – an opinion shared by many in the community – to understand some of the reasons why the community voted no.

William Markert

Prior Lake

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