The Big Story Blog

Will school levies make the grade?

Posted at 6:20 AM on November 3, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Education, Politics, Taxes

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More than 120 Minnesota school districts next week will ask voters to renew or approve new taxes to help fund local schools. But as we approach the four year anniversary of the start of the Great Recession and struggle through the not-so-great recovery, this could be one of the worst times in decades to be asking voters for anything, even school money.

School levies typically pass or fail based on how people perceive their schools and those who run them. In some districts, a new levy or a levy increase is a slam dunk. Other districts will face years of perpetual opposition. Conventional wisdom holds that people with kids in schools will vote for it, people on fixed incomes will not and the battle is for the hearts and minds of everyone else.

It's possible conventional wisdom could be wrong this time.

The recession devastated home values and put a lot of people out of work. It's an environment that could make it harder than ever for property owners to vote Yes.

Complicating things even more: "Minnesota school districts seeking voter-approved tax increases this fall will face something they've never faced before: open opposition from some Republican legislators," MPR News reporter Tim Pugmire wrote recently.

GOP Rep. Pat Garofalo reinforced that sentiment Wednesday in an op-ed in the Northfield News headlined "School levy: How much is enough for taxpayers?" Garofalo wrote:

In Northfield and other districts, taxpayers would be foolish to vote for yet another tax increase without knowing how that money is going to be spent -- yet that is exactly what is being asked of them.

We'll spend today on the Big Story Blog talking school levies. We'll dig into how schools are funded in Minnesota, how much the state pays and get some sense of what to expect next week.

We need your insight on this. Post some thoughts below or contact us directly and tell us about your local school referendum and how you might vote. Press the Insight button below.

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About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.