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School board needs to look at financial future

Monday night, the Glencoe-Silver Lake School Board turned down a proposed cut of a full-time fifth-grade teaching position for the 2018-19 school year.
Mind you, the administration wasn’t looking to eliminate someone’s job; instead, it was taking advantage of a retirement to reduce its staff by not replacing that teacher, and by moving a current fifth-grade teacher to another spot where he or she would be needed.
For the past couple of years, the administration has been cautioning the board that a day of reckoning is near: it cannot keep deficit spending if it wants to preserve its goal of maintaining a reserve equal to 20 percent of its operating budget. By not eliminating the position, the board’s reserve will dip closer to 16 percent of the operating budget. Not fatal, but the downward spiral needs to be checked if the board does not want a return to its years of statutory operating debt.
We understand parents want low teacher-to-student ratios for their children. Children are much more likely to get individualized attention in a classroom with 20 students than one with 28 students.
And we also understand how difficult it is for a school board to look those parents in the eye and tell them they have to weigh financial needs against educational needs in order to maintain a healthy fiscal position. Board members also want the best for the children of their communities.
Governor Mark Dayton is pushing for one-time emergency aid for school districts which, if passed, could help Glencoe-Silver Lake maintain the position for another a year. But, again, that’s a short-term, band-aid fix.
Among the items on the school board’s table is the need to either replace a current operating levy, or actually increase it.
If the board wants to continue to maintain its current spending levels and classroom sizes, it needs to encourage the public to not only replace the excess operating levy, but to increase it.
But the board and administrators cannot do that alone. Those parents who want to see programs preserved, or even enhanced, need to bang the drum as well.
A couple of months ago, the school board had talked about having a workshop session to discuss the excess operating levy. It’s time to have that workshop, and two things need to be discussed: whether to have a vote this fall, and whether it should ask for approval of an excess operating levy at the current dollar amount, or seek an increase.
It’s time to put a long-term plan in place for financing the district’s programs and staff.