Excellent schools benefit all


Exciting conversations are taking place in our communities as we share our new strategic plan and our vision for our schools. We’ve been hearing from many community members who passionately support this plan and are strongly advocating for the need to support and maintain the tradition of excellence in our schools.

Our school board has also engaged in difficult conversations about how to best balance the need to maintain and grow an excellent school system with the need to have the least impact on our residents. At its April 11 meeting, the board passed a resolution of intent to call a special election and referendum in November. The specifics of the levy request have been shared in the newspapers and will be explained in more detail through school district newsletters and presentations.

As we work together to share this information and inform voters prior to the November election, I ask you to consider the impact the quality of our schools has on our community — whether you are a parent, “empty nester,” senior citizen or business person.

Most people think of public school systems as takers of tax dollars. To be completely honest, they are also producers of dollars. The operating and capital budgets of public school systems, like Stillwater, create jobs in the economy. The 1,000-plus jobs needed to maintain the programs in early childhood, special education, kindergarten through graduation and community education, generate dollars spent in the St. Croix Valley and create new jobs and additional expenditures for the local economy.

Beyond generating jobs, according to Michael Walden, an economics professor at North Carolina State and a specialist in economic impact analysis, there are “other significant economic impacts associated with a strong public school system.” Among them are raising property values or shielding them during recessionary times, helping hold down public safety, social services and public health costs and increasing the lifetime earnings of its graduates. These are necessary areas to explore as one considers voting for the levy request this November.

Property values have fallen in the St. Croix Valley during the last few years as they have throughout the nation. Economists note that a strong public school system has the effect of shielding home values or lessening the value loss during times when the nation sees a significant downturn. Strong District 834 schools, as evidenced by strong academics, arts and athletics, allow home values to retain much of their value or even rise slightly despite recessionary times. Research indicates that home buyers prefer to live in towns and cities with better quality schools, and they are willing to pay higher home prices to live in such areas.

An obvious benefit of well-rounded graduates who leave school college or career ready is the savings to society. Taxpayer costs for social services and public health are less when someone graduates from high school prepared for his or her next step. One hopes that the economic value of a high school diploma is enhanced as the graduate develops a safe and healthy lifestyle in order to achieve higher earnings.

If District 834 can improve the academic performance of its graduates through a strong core program, extensive learner supports and elective classes that personalize education, the hope is that there will be less need for public health or other social service programs throughout a graduate’s lifetime.

The final impact is directly for those who graduate from District 834 schools. It is well documented that those who graduate from high school earn significantly more during their lifetime than school dropouts. Our students who attend college and do not need remedial work will create immediate tuition savings as well as allowing them to graduate from college to enter the work force sooner.

Our students who do not attend college but enter the job market immediately need to have strong literacy and math skills as well as the motivation and creativity to succeed in a chosen field. They are better able to contribute to the country’s economy and increase their lifetime earnings if their preparation in our schools was excellent.

A personalized program focused on a student’s passion and 21st century skills prepares our graduates for successful futures in the ever changing global economy. Students not only benefit themselves but benefit all of society by contributing more and needing less.

The positive economic impact of a strong public school system is obvious. Please help us maintain excellence in District 834 schools by learning more and becoming an informed voter over the next several months.

Superintendent Corey Lunn can be contacted via email at [email protected] or by phone at 651-351-8301. Questions can also be sent by mail to Superintendent, Stillwater Area Public Schools, 1875 South Greeley Street, Stillwater, MN 55082. Register for Stillwater Area Public Schools E-News at www.stillwater.k12.mn.us/subscribe.