If the referendum passes, where will the money go?
If Question 1 is approved, it will generate $2.9 million annually and the funds can only be spent on:
- supporting student learning
- hiring and keeping high-quality teachers and staff
- reducing class sizes
Our community and our task force said hiring and keeping high-quality teachers is our top priority. Ballot Question 1 states “Authorization to Hire/Retain High-Quality Teachers and Support Students.” If question 1 is approved, the district is legally obligated to hire/retain teachers to reduce class sizes. We will purchase more classroom supplies, books and learning materials to support students in the new teachers’ classrooms. We will provide additional support for students (this could be an aide or reading interventions or other supports).
Starting with the grade levels that are most in need, the district will retain teachers and hire more teachers to lower class size. Each spring, the district looks at enrollment projections for each grade level and sets class size targets and ranges. Presently all grade levels are at or above their targets. For example, in our 7th grade science and social studies classes, we have 36-37 students. To get to acceptable class sizes at our middle schools, we would need to hire four more teachers at each middle school. At lower grades, for example, Kindergarten, we would need to hire 5 new teachers to get class sizes down to 20. To add two teachers at every grade level to lower class sizes, it would require at least 20 teachers for grades K-8.
It is increasingly difficult to find and hire in some hard-to-fill positions, and we are often competing with higher salaries in other districts and in private business. Currently, the fact is that Cambridge-Isanti teachers are paid the lowest in the area. Most teachers can drive 30 minutes south and make thousands of dollars more. Last year, we lost highly-qualified teachers to Anoka-Hennepin Schools and Elk River Schools (among others).
In addition to hiring new teachers in support of student learning, we also budget $3,200 for classroom materials and instructional supplies (books, science equipment, etc) for each additional classroom. Over the last three years, we have cut the curriculum and instruction budget 57%. So, we need to invest in our students in other ways such as designing curriculum and purchasing materials, instructional supplies and other classroom aides. Project-Lead-The-Way (an introductory engineering program), is an example where we have kept the teacher, but cut the supply budgets in recent years; that class needs additional funds to support robotics and engineering hands-on learning kits.
It’s important to recognize that the referendum per-pupil funding is fixed and will not increase over time. Since labor costs and supply costs increase over time, the district will be conservative and only add teachers that we can sustainably afford to keep over time without creating future budget challenges.
NOTE: This is an operating referendum, not a bond (construction) referendum; we are not funding facilities with this referendum. Facility improvements use Capital funds, Long-Term Maintenance Funding, or bonds (debt), which are different categories of school funding strictly regulated by law.
Question 2 states “Authorization to Support Vocational Technology and College Readiness.” We will be legally obligated to maintain (avoid cutting) and expand vocational and career technical classes, and we will increase opportunities to earn college credits while in high school. We will add apprenticeships and provide training and mentoring to prepare graduates for success in careers and college. Question 2 can only pass if Q 1 passes.
If question 2 is approved, we will work to hire more career technical education teachers and teachers qualified to teach college-credit courses in high schools, and develop more certification programs. (We offer welding currently, but could develop more in healthcare, computer sciences, trades, and/or human services fields). Funds would also pay for curriculum, acquiring specialized equipment or instructional materials. This plan does not include any building renovation; existing spaces at the middle and high school would be used.