The Potluck

School operating levies successful in many Minnesota districts

By: - November 3, 2021 5:20 pm

Voters cast ballots at Brackett Recreation Center in Minneapolis on Nov. 2, 2021. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Voters across Minnesota approved the majority of school operating levies and bonds on the ballot in Tuesday’s election, according to the Minnesota School Board Association.

Sixty-six school districts asked voters to renew levies for operations or capital projects — or raise taxes to increase levies — as schools struggle with rising costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. About two-thirds of the referendums passed, according to a tally from MSBA. 

Levy increases were approved in school districts from Redwood Falls to Eastern Carver County. Voters signed off on significant changes in some, like Shakopee, which will receive $11 million in revenue through two levies — both of which failed in 2020.

Until now, Shakopee was the sole metro school district without a voter-approved levy, Southwest News Media reported, and school officials said the district would have to make yearly cuts without the funding boost.

Voters also approved referendums that had previously failed in Stillwater, Floodwood and Aitkin, according to the teachers union Education Minnesota. 

“The educators who did that work deserve a lot of credit. It’s been an exhausting fall,” Education Minnesota President Denise Specht said in a news release. “The Legislature needs to fix the structural problems in school funding so educators can focus on educating students without the distractions of referendum campaigns.”

School districts’ proposals weren’t all successful. Voters in Anoka-Hennepin, the state’s largest school district, rejected by a 10-point margin an increase of $275 per pupil. And voters in New Ulm declined to renew an existing levy of roughly $70 per pupil — an unusual move, since renewals are virtually always approved, the Pioneer Press reported.

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a data reporter with the Reformer. Rilyn was born and raised in Minnesota and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.