Herald Journal Columns
Feb. 6, 2006, Herald Journal

Open enrollment - who pays?


Some residents of the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted (HLWW) district are getting a sweet deal from other districts.

The HLWW school district serves fewer than 1,000 students.

The district is currently losing at least 316 students to open enrollment, and taking in only 59 from other districts, a disparity of 257 students.

In spite of these numbers, some people say there is no problem.

HLWW Superintendent George Ladd disagrees. Ladd contends that the open enrollment disparity is a huge problem for the HLWW district. Fewer students means less resources for improving the curriculum, and fewer electives the district is able to offer.

The fewer electives that are available, the less appealing the district becomes for prospective students.

It is a downward spiral.

If people choose to continue to delude themselves into thinking there is no problem in the HLWW district, that is their choice.

If people choose to disregard the need for a new high school and upgrades to other schools in the district, that is their decision.

If people choose to ignore the proposals of the school board, and the recommendation of the Minnesota Commissioner of Education, that is their business.

However, if these same people choose to live in a district with low school taxes, but then choose to send their children down the road to attend school in another district, it becomes the business of taxpayers in that district.

Based upon property tax levies certified last December, school taxes payable for a resident of the HLWW district, who owns a home with a taxable market value of $150,000, will be $365.

School taxes payable for a resident of the Watertown-Mayer school district with a home of the same value will be $607.

Thus, people who reside in the HLWW district, but choose to send their children to the Watertown-Mayer district, are getting by for a fraction of the cost.

As a taxpayer in the Watertown-Mayer district, I have an issue with subsidizing the education of students from outside the district.

If parents choose to keep taxes in their home district low by not voting for needed upgrades to their schools, that is their choice.

However, if this is their choice, they should then keep their children in that district, and accept the level of service for which they are willing to pay.

Our legislators need to step up and fix the system.

If residents of a lower-tax district choose to send their students to schools in a higher-tax district, they should be required to pay the difference between the tax in their home district and the tax in the district where their children attend school.

At the very least, this would require parents to pay their fair share of the cost of educating their children.

At best, it would force people to take off their rose-colored glasses and take a realistic look at the cost of education.

No one wants to pay higher taxes, but decisions have consequences.

Quality education is important, but it comes with a price.

If you make the choice not to support changes that are needed in your school district, don’t ask someone else to subsidize that decision by paying higher taxes to educate your children.

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