Our opinion: Support education by voting yes

Austin Public Schools is asking for voters to renew a $1 million operating levy this Tuesday, and we hope voters rise to the occasion. Supporting the school district’s operating levy makes sense, keeps jobs, and provides for a better Austin education.

Minnesota’s schools are one of the reasons our state is in good economic shape and has a higher quality of life, compared to much of the U.S. The $1 million operating levy, passed by residents in 2003, will ensure those characteristics continue in Austin.

The levy goes toward district salaries, utilities payments, supplies and other things under Austin’s general education fund. It may not seem like a crucial part of the $50 million budget the district works with every year, but losing 2 percent of Austin’s budget would certainly mean cutting teaching and support positions. As Austin’s student population continues to grow, losing teachers would be disastrous for classroom size, for student participation, and for overall education in Austin.

The district has embarked on innovative approaches to learning over the past few years, from the Grading for Learning grading system to Sumner Elementary School’s year-round schedule to the critical thinking emphasis at I.J. Holton Intermediate School. All this, and the district has still maintained a balanced budget.

Voting to keep the levy in place will maintain Austin’s innovative approach to learning. Taxes may decrease if the levy is no longer in place, but a change to the state’s referendum equalization formula has ensured residents will see a tax break anyway, regardless of the vote’s outcome.

With tax breaks already in place, with a strong educational institution serving Austin, and with innovative approaches to learning, it only makes sense to vote for the district’s operating levy come Nov. 5. We hope residents will come out in droves to support the levy, as we do.

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