Cloquet School Referendum: Positive Reflections on Yes/NoThank you, citizens of the Cloquet School District, for your support during the recent school referendum discussion and subsequent election that was held Nov. 8. I felt we were going to have a very difficult task informing our public about the election when the decision was made to ask our voters to consider two levy questions to support student learning.
By: Ken Scarbrough, Cloquet Schools Superintendent , for the Pine Journal
Thank you, citizens of the Cloquet School District, for your support during the recent school referendum discussion and subsequent election that was held Nov. 8. I felt we were going to have a very difficult task informing our public about the election when the decision was made to ask our voters to consider two levy questions to support student learning. However, our two local radio stations, CAT 7, local newspapers, service organizations, clubs, and people who have had experience in communicating with the public went out of their way to help us inform our public and to hold discussions about the referendum election. With all this community help, I feel that the Cloquet School community was well informed.
I have been involved with numerous school levy elections. Such election activities can involve very heated conversations. These disagreements do not come from whether we support student learning but rather how much we should pay for that learning and who should pay. Our community was very strong in voicing support for our students, but I also was very impressed at the manner in which the election issues were discussed. Regardless of what sides of the questions our voters were leaning, the election discussions and behaviors were mostly respectful and thoughtful. Our community should be proud of how we hold these discussions and make decisions on important issues.
Finally, there is the vote to consider. No one likes saying yes to taxes, but our voters did say yes to extend the current levy authority. One thing I find impressive about this is that consumer confidence was close to 60 percent when we did our survey of school district residents asking them what they felt they could support for school taxes. By the time the election was held in November, consumer confidence in our economy had dropped to 39 percent. So, even though our thoughts about the economy were dismal, our voters continued to support a referendum tax to generate almost $100 per student.
The second levy question, an increase of $275 per student was close, failing by only 86 votes out of over 2,100 votes cast. That tells me that it was a tough call for our community. Our citizens support our students, but confidence in our economy is lagging about such things as jobs, fuel prices, food prices, and feelings that the world and national economies will rebound soon. Obviously, the school administration and school board are going to have a tough time making educational cuts this winter and spring. We don’t want to reduce services, raise class sizes, or raise fees. However, throughout this very difficult process during which these things will happen, we need to remember the support our students have and the manner in which our citizens can discuss and decide difficult issues.