The Monona Grove School District recently held series of public hearings regarding proposed budget reductions in the district. As a district we have to cut approximately $1.2 million dollars from the budget this year, followed by preliminary reports of another $800,000 next year. I was happy that Superintendent Gerlach and the Board members present let it be known that each cut we make will hurt, and we have “trimmed the fat” years ago, now we are making drastic cuts that hurt our children’s education.
“As I look down the list below the cuts, 17 of the next 19 are personnel and staff,” Fox said. “There are a whole lot of staff people. We are at that point. If we’re going to be honest, we’re doing less with less. You can only do more with less for so long. All of this is a loss. None of us want to cut anything here.”
Fox added that while it may look like certain departments or schools, such as athletics and the high school, are not taking as significant cuts as other areas, those areas have been cut in years past.
“We’ve been chipping away in every area,” Fox said. “These are gut wrenching decisions. They all hurt. We do understand how important these things are.”
I was the last person to speak and after the hearing, and after the meeting I was immediately critiqued by local cartoonist hunter and public employee Mike Mikalsen:
Just wish I had taken a video of your testimony tonight. Classic liberal dogma. Make everyone else pay more because you want!
The only people at the meeting that liked Jeff’s talk last night were the unionized school staff. He called for significantly higher property taxes. Wants a referendum that would need to increase taxes by at least $13 million. Those stick’in taxpayers don’t deserve their own money.
So I thought I would share my testimony here and let the people decide. One quick aside, this is my written testimony, the actual spoken version strayed slightly from this:
Thank you for holding these hearings. I am here to advocate on holding a special referendum to fund our schools. With the potential cuts to our schools of such things as busing, strings program, language arts, phy ed, music, art class, etc… As a father of two children just starting out in the district, my question is “Why should my children not have the same opportunities that their predecessors?”. What we are doing now, and why fundraising is not the answer, is because we are just passing the buck.
When I have to pay $400 + to have my first grader bused to school instead of making her walker over a mile to school, along with perpetual charges of $20 here, $15 there, $20 more here, etc… It tends to add up. It also tends to add up for the same 30-40 families. Every year Cottage Grove PTO holds a fall festival. As part of the fundraiser, they ask all parents in each classroom to send in an item to be put in a classroom basket(there is usually a theme). Obviously the better the baskets the more money the PTO makes. Classrooms range from 22-25 kids and there is perpetually 10-12 items in each basket. This perpetual cutting just allows some people a chance to skip paying their fair share of the commons. Everyone benefits from a strong school. I also want to preface that I know I am preaching to the choir here tonight. The people who do not contribute to any of these events do not come to meetings like this either. They are busy at home complaining to their neighbors about how much money we are spending.
For the next few months, we are going to be inundated with ads, bought by out of state millionaires and billionaires, telling us that It’s Working. It is NOT working! Notice that every speaker and every discussion we have had tonight has been talking about how can we minimize the damage with this cut? how many people will be affected by this cut? If we save this program this year, we will not be able to save it next year. NOWHERE has anyone discussed how these reforms/cuts are making education better for our children.
We are here tonight because there is a concerted effort to privatize our schools. There is untapped profit in the classroom and they will stop at nothing to get their hands on it. We need to say NO.
With a successful referendum, we will have higher property taxes, better educated children and we will be able to draw people and business to our community. Businesses are not running around looking how they can save a hundred dollars on taxes, they want a strong community with services and great schools so the executives can move there and take advantage.
We also need to recognize that education is an INVESTMENT, not an expense.
I personally want the people who work at McDonalds, 1855, Mike’s Auto, the Black Bear, The Cenex, those who design and build our roads, police and fire peoples, the military, all who work at local hospitals, emt’s etc… to be well educated. That starts with 4k and moves on from there.
Let us make the MONONA GROVE SCHOOL DISTRICT a “shining district upon a hill”? where everyone wants to move to and visit. A successful referendum can help us get there.
As Derek Bok said “if you think education is expensive, try ignorance!”
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