The message was direct, “Vote Yes for Kids,” and on Tuesday, the people of Minneapolis and St. Paul delivered for their school districts.
Voters backed $30 million a year in new funding for Minneapolis Public Schools and were well on the way to approving $18.6 million a year for St. Paul Public Schools.
With the infusion of money comes hope that the districts will be spared the springtime ritual of deep budget cutting.
Steve Marchese, a first-term St. Paul school board member, said a “yes” vote meant giving his district a “fighting chance.”
Minneapolis Schools Superintendent Ed Graff said Tuesday’s votes confirmed “we’re on the right track toward providing the education all of our students deserve.”
High-stakes levy and bond proposals were being decided in the suburbs, too.
The Centennial and Columbia Heights school districts turned previous losses into victories. “Yes” votes were outpacing the “no” votes in Forest Lake, Mahtomedi and Robbinsdale. In Rockford, which had experienced recent ballot defeats, one of two funding proposals passed and the other failed.
In the two core cities, Graff and St. Paul Schools Superintendent Joe Gothard sought to strengthen the bottom line and invest in new strategies to boost achievement. Graff, a proponent of social and emotional learning, wants to bolster student support services. Gothard, who has similar goals, is finalizing a new strategic plan for his district.
Minneapolis also elected five school board members, in the process ousting an incumbent, Rebecca Gagnon, who took the controversial step of pushing to reverse middle and high school funding cuts late in this year’s budget deliberations.
Challengers Kimberly Caprini, a North Side resident who has served on numerous school site councils, and Josh Pauly, a former Minneapolis teacher, were elected to citywide seats. Three incumbents — Siad Ali, Jenny Arneson and Nelson Inz — were re-elected after running unopposed in their respective geographic districts.