Voters in Minot face an extremely important decision on Tuesday, when they will decide the fate of a $125 million school bond issue. We trust residents will vote after arming themselves with accurate information.
Tuesday is an opportunity for residents to determine what kind of city they want Minot to be in the future. Minot prides itself on being a family friendly city, with support for a thriving arts community, a strong public parks system and a community-wide belief in the value of education. As this city continues to grow in population, in large part because of the ongoing boom in the oil industry, local leaders and civic-minded residents have worked to attract families to Minot, in hopes they will put down roots here.
As part of that effort, we believe Minot must continue its tradition of providing a quality education for its students. The changes that would be funded by the bond issue are important steps in that direction. The requested bonds would pay for a new elementary school in southeast Minot, converting Central Campus into a third middle school, building a second public high school, and alleviating safety issues at a number of district schools.
A few ideas for funding these plans continue to be pushed by opponents of the bond issue, but here are the facts:
- State law prohibits using sales tax revenue to build public schools.
- Oil companies, or any other business that attracts large numbers of new residents, have no financial obligation to pay for new public schools.
- Money in The School Lands Trust is not available to build new public schools. Local legislators have asked for an Attorney General's opinion on that issue, but a ruling likely won't come for months. Money from this fund has never been used for such a purpose.
Enrollment figures show that a lack of space is a reality now. The students are already here. As of earlier this week, there were approximately 7,400 students enrolled in grades K-12 in the Minot Public School district, a figure that often fluctuates by a few students weekly, sometimes daily. Currently, the average class size in grades K-3 is 19.25 students; average class size in grades 4-5 is 20.7 students.
In 2013, approximately 420 students graduated from Minot High School. This year's kindergarten class has more than 700 students. The district has seen steady growth of at least 3 percent for a number of years, and projections show that trend continuing. Even if Minot's student population doesn't grow at all from its current level, there isn't enough space to properly house the current number of students.
Putting even more students in portable classrooms, where hundreds of students are already being educated, is not an option. Portables cannot be a longterm solution. Portables at Washington?Elementary, for instance, have no running water or bathroom facilities. Time that should be spent on learning is instead taken each day to have scheduled bathroom breaks for entire sections of fourth- and fifth-graders. Students often walk from the portables into the school building alone, and the portables' location away from the main school building creates real and obvious safety concerns.
Will passing the bond issue cost residents money in the form of more property taxes??Yes. But residents of this city have previously voted to build new schools, such as Magic City Campus, because they believed in the importance of education, and they believed that being part of a community sometimes means making sacrifices for the benefit of the entire community. We continue to believe that.
The Minot Daily News supports a 'yes' vote on Tuesday on the Minot Public School District's bond issue.