From classroom trends to school board decisions, Class Act will keep you updated on all the school issues followed by the Star Tribune’s education reporters. Contributors include Steve Brandt, who covers Minneapolis; Kim McGuire, who covers the west metro; Erin Adler, who covers the south metro; Anthony Lonetree and Libor Jany, who cover St. Paul and the east metro, and Paul Levy and Shannon Prather, who cover the north metro.

Voters reject both West St. Paul referendum questions

Posted by: Erin Adler Updated: May 7, 2014 - 10:45 AM

The voters have spoken in the West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan district, and they have rejected both questions placed on the May 6 referendum ballot.

Fifty-three percent of voters said 'no' to the first question, which proposed a $1.7 million technology levy increase to maintain current technology and increase the ratio of iPads and laptops to students in the district.

About 54 percent of voters rejected the second question. That $11.2 million measure would have built a $7.5 million early childhood center and funded security upgrades across the district.

Superintendent Nancy Allen-Mastro said she was surprised by the results, since surveys in February indicated that 64 percent of voters supported both questions.

"I think the question is, did voters come out, and did those who voted represent a cross section of our community?" she said.

The district will do some "post-election analysis" to see who voted and why they made the choices they did.

Mastro-Allen said she was aware of a "vote no" campaign that materialized about a week before the referendum and "activated very quickly."

Stuart Simek was one of the people behind the anti-referendum sentiment. He believes that distributing 4,000 flyers and hanging numerous signs "absolutely" affected referendum results.

The outcome sends "two strong messages to the District 197 school board," he said in an email.

The first is that "Taxpayers will not look favorably upon special bond and levy referendums that are held off-cycle in May." In addition, "The community will not keep throwing money at a school district with continued mediocre results," he said.

Simek cited the district's 2013 MCA scores -- 63 percent of sophomores were proficient in reading and 57 percent of juniors were proficient in math -- as "not acceptable."

Allen-Mastro said that "all three issues remain critical for the district" and that technology, security and early childhood needs "won't go away."

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