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Valeria Silva

Valeria Silva

David Joles, Star Tribune

$66

what the new levy would cost the owners of a $149,000 house in St. Paul

Silva pushes for St. Paul school levy votes this fall

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW
  • Star Tribune
  • June 14, 2012 - 1:29 PM

St. Paul School Superintendent Valeria Silva on Tuesday urged school board members to ask voters for more money this fall.

Silva recommended that two measures appear on the November ballot: an extension of an expiring levy that provides $30 million each year, plus a new levy that will raise an additional $9 million per year for the next eight years.

Without them, Silva warned, city schools will face drastic cuts to academic programs, teacher reductions and larger class sizes.

"That's scary, because we need that money for our kids," Silva told the board, adding that without the new money, the district also will have a hard time integrating information technology into the classroom, raising student achievement and closing the achievement gap.

If approved, the new levy would cost the owners of a $149,000 house, the median value of a home in the state's second-largest school district, about $66 per year.

Silva told board members that a recent survey showed an overwhelming majority of St. Paul residents support renewing the levy, which is set to expire next June. And more than half say they would be willing to kick in a little extra, according to a recent survey conducted by Springsted Inc. and the Center for Public Opinion Research.

The board won't make a final decision on whether to put the question on the ballot until later this summer.

Silva touted recent gains in student achievement linked to the $30 million levy approved in 2006, which funds all-day kindergarten and early childhood programs, provides math and literacy specialists in the elementary schools, keeps class sizes down in junior and senior high math and science classes, and provides services for special education students and English language learners. If the current levy is discontinued, those are possible targets for deep cuts, she said.

More than 77 percent of the 605 residents polled by telephone between April 30 and May 6 said they favor renewing the current levy. When told that failure to do so would lead to drastic cuts, that number rose to 81 percent.

While a majority of respondents gave the district of 38,000 students a favorable grade of B or better in the areas of educating children for future success, planning for needs of the community, managing finances, and meeting academic needs of the city, only 57 percent said they'd willing to pony up more money. If the increase was limited to $45 per household a year, the approval rate rose to 66 percent.

"This is tough. I know where you are with the economy," she told board members. "But you know where we are with our kids."

Tim Harlow • 651-925-5039

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