Rebutting arguments made against the technology referendum

This week’s Chaska Herald featured some letters and commentary against the Eastern Carver County Schools Technology Referendum.  Let me rebut some arguments and set some facts straight.

There was a letter to the editor by John Brunette that indicated that District 112 had higher per-pupil expenditures than most other neighboring districts.  Brunette’s data is incorrect.  Per the Minnesota Department of Education, District 112 is one of the lowest spending school districts of its type.  Check out the graph below, which shows the actual per pupil funding for the last three years, plus the projected funding for next year if the referendum passes, for like school districts (suburban school districts with +/- 1,500 students).

More importantly, I’d like to address the argument made by Kristi Jackson about voting “no” to enact change.  Jackson argues that she can’t support the referendum because of the inequities between Chanhassen High School and Chaska High School.  Let’s talk about those inequities and why voting “no” would be precisely the wrong response.

Certainly, as Jackson suggests, Chanhassen High has newer facilities and more advanced technology.  That comes with the Chanhassen High being in its third year of operation, while the current Chaska High School building is now 15 years old.

And, yes, enrollment between the two schools has become somewhat unbalanced.  Why is that?  Two primary reasons — first, the boundaries were drawn before the collapse of the housing market.  Had the housing market stayed afloat, Chaska Township would be undergoing significant residential construction.  The second factor is that parents are taking advantage of open enrollment to have their children go a short distance down the road to a newer facility.

Yes, math scores are unbalanced between the two high schools as well, as has been previously discussed here.  Those variances can be explained largely by the demographic differences between the schools.

Jackson advocates that the District abandon the community-based boundary system currently in place.  While this is a topic that many will have strong feelings about, I tend to agree with the District’s position that we need to give it a couple of more years to shake out.  Constant transition of school boundaries isn’t good for the District, either, and we need to be very solid on the rationale for doing so before we undertake such changes.  (Living here since 2003, we’ve been assigned to three different elementary schools over that period of time.  I’m glad that my daughters were young enough to avoid having to make those transitions.)

As a parent of children who will attend Chaska High School when they get older, I certainly understand Jackson’s concerns.  But voting “no” is exactly the wrong thing to do.  Voting “no” is only going to make it harder for the District to address the technology, facilities, and performance gap between Chanhassen High School and Chaska High School.

Currently, all the schools in the District are fighting over small amounts of capital improvement dollars.  Allowing technology funding to be supported by this levy will increase the pool of money available to upgrade all aspects of the Chaska High facility.  The district has just posted a school-by-school list of projects in the first two years of technology referendum funding, and Chaska High School is the largest recipient of that funding.

Much of the technology funding will also go to programs specifically designed to address STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subject areas.  These programs will only help Chaska High students perform at a higher level over the coming years.

Finally, we need to remember that changing the boundary lines to equalize the demographic makeup of the two schools doesn’t fundamentally do anything to solve the problem — it just moves it around.  While it may look better (and may make some people feel better) to have two schools at 60% proficiency instead of one school at 50% and one school at 70%, we’ve still got 40% of students who aren’t passing the test.  Regardless of where these students are going to school, the District has to find a way to reach them.

It’s understandable that parents are frustrated about some things.  I certainly haven’t agreed with every decision that has been made over the years.  But voting “no” to send a message isn’t going to help students.  There are ways to send a message to the School Board and administration without harming the very goals you are trying to pursue.

Vote “yes”, and give the District the resources it needs to address these issues and then let’s hold them accountable for achieving results.

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One Response to “Rebutting arguments made against the technology referendum”

  1. I really hope you submit this to the Chaska Herald to be published. I’ve heard people stating they’re going to vote no largely due to reading the numbers posted by John Brunette’s letter to the editor.

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