Our opinion: Taking public notices for schools out of newspapers would hurt the public

Published 5:26 pm Friday, April 19, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

A significant discussion is taking place at the state Legislature in reaction to the recent announcement that eight community newspapers will close at the end of the month.

Under a proposal in the Senate Education Policy Omnibus bill (SF 3567), school districts would no longer be required to publish their proceedings in newspapers and could instead move them to their own websites.

We believe the proposal, which is backed by the Minnesota School Boards Association, is a knee-jerk reaction made too quickly after the announcement about the southwest metro newspapers and does not take into consideration possible solutions.

Email newsletter signup

While there is a possibility some of these newspapers could still be purchased, there is also a law already in place that says if you don’t have a legal newspaper in place in your county, those notices can be placed in a newspaper in an adjoining county. In the case of these newspapers, there is also the possibility of printing notices in the Star Tribune.

We believe that anytime you start messing with public notices and government transparency, it gets the ball rolling, and we have no doubt it could trickle down to other local government public notices as well.

Public notices are essential in not only helping residents make informed decisions but also in holding local governments accountable for decisions made.

Government entities should not be placing their own notices on their websites for transparency’s sake, and it’s especially important to point out that the reach of these sites is often substantially less than those of newspapers.

In addition to the print edition, the Tribune and all newspapers that print public notices publish them on their websites in front of the paywall so that any person interested in looking through the notices can do so free of charge. People don’t have to buy a newspaper and they don’t have to have a subscription to view them. And they are archived there forever so if someone needs to go back and look through several notices, they will be able to find them. 

The notices are also uploaded to mnpublicnotice.com, where the public can search for all of the public notices throughout the state.

We urge the Senate Conference Committee members to work with the Minnesota Newspapers Association, which represents the state’s newspapers, on a possible solution to this situation.

The Minnesota School Boards Association and MNA collaborated in 2022 to modernize the state’s public notice laws, and we believe a solution can be reached in this case as well.

The House version of the bill, with the help of Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, has come up with a possible solution that the newspaper association could support that would offer a narrow, time-limited exception to the required newspaper publication requirements for school district legals to address the situation taking place in the metro.

We ask legislators to keep in mind the importance of transparency for the public.

Don’t put residents across the entire state in the dark with this decision.