Paid Political Letter: Austin Public Schools students need your ‘yes’ vote on referendum

Published 5:36 pm Friday, October 28, 2022

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The mission of public education is to provide students with a wealth of educational opportunities, which in turn will prepare them to become valuable contributors in a challenging society. Austin Public Schools endeavors to do that for every child.

Recently three Austin City Council members wrote a persuasive article in the Austin Daily Herald, encouraging voters to support the Austin Public Schools referendum. Their reasons for supporting the levy were many, but two of them stood out. First, they spoke about quality of life in Austin, and how strong public schools contribute to a vibrant sense of community. Second, they put forth the idea that a prospering public school system might attract families to Austin because parents value good education. They want their children to succeed.

Isn’t that precisely what most of us want? For our children to succeed and for all children to learn, to compete, to be accepted and grow, to find their voice and make a difference in an ever-changing world. That, it seems to me, is the charge that we, as adults, are entrusted with when it comes to our children’s future. It is my hope that we might enthusiastically embrace that calling.

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I’m not a member of the City Council, so I don’t know a lot about business or housing or attracting professionals to our city. I’ll leave that to the experts. But, as an Austin School Board member, I think I  know something about education, and I firmly  believe that a quality education unlocks doors for student success after graduation. Whether students pursue job training, tech ed, higher ed, military service or enter the workforce, we expect our students to be prepared for life.

My wife Marsha and I are both graduates of Austin Public Schools. Due, in part, to that, each of us has found some success in our careers and lives here. Our three children graduated from Austin, went on to college and put what they had learned to good use over time. We have a granddaughter, countless rich experiences and we would like future generations to share in that bounty.

Austin’s quality education will surely suffer if the referendum does not pass. The 2022 local election is critical. Sadly, elected officials in St. Paul have not adequately funded public schools. Taxpayers in districts across Minnesota are being asked to supplement deficiencies in school aid. Today, with inflation grimly affecting households, Austin Public Schools does not take this financial appeal lightly. It is an extremely difficult request to make, but a highly crucial one for our future.

Now you, the Austin area voter, is being asked to lend a helping hand. The district isn’t asking you for much — just enough to stay competitive, to be on average, to avoid a financial shortfall that might negatively affect your child’s  (grandchild’s  or neighbor’s child’s) education. I ask that you think about the importance of our children’s future. I like to think that their future is our future.

Please consider the aspirations of our Austin students. Please be generous. Above all, please vote “yes” for the Austin Public Schools referendum on Nov. 8

Don Leathers

Austin, MN