Daryl Somerville, Minot
The upcoming bond issue vote for new schools is a critical event for our city. For anyone who has followed this issue, and is aware of the facts, there is no disputing the need for additional schools and classrooms. With nearly 500 students in portables today, this is not an acceptable, permanent solution to our enrollment issues. Portables were designed to be temporary. Our class sizes from third grade on down are all above 620 students per class with the kindergarten topping out at 720 students, and these numbers are projected to grow by 1,000 more students in the next five years. We have capacity for 1,500 students at our two middle schools which handle sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, which means in a few years we will be out of room in the middle schools. We all know the need is immediate and overdue if we are going to continue to be known as a community that puts education for our youth as a number one priority.
The only source of funding currently available for new schools is a bond issue through property tax. As of today, the state has not participated in the building of new schools, nor have they indicated that they intend to do so. If money from the state was so readily available, why have not other school districts pursued or received money for building new schools? Our school board and administration have lobbied hard to attain as much financial help as possible from the state and will continue to do so even if the bond issue is passed. Our school board has also made the commitment that any monies received from the state will be used to pay down or reduce the bonds to be sold.
Regarding state funding, I do feel that the state can, and possibly will, do more when it comes to property tax relief for education. However, we cannot hope that the state will entirely fund building our schools for us without any local financial input. I do not believe the state is going to go from doing nothing in the building of new schools to financing 100 percent of all new schools in the state. This means we would have to pass a bond issue to receive any funding. Even so, if this were to happen, it would not take place for nearly two years when the state Legislature meets again. My concern is that if people choose to vote "no" on this bond issue with the mere hope that the state will come in and build our schools for us, there is a good chance we could be bitterly disappointed. If that would be the case, then we, as a community, will have failed our students today and students for future generations.
Vote "yes" for the bond issue on Dec. 10.