An Open Letter From MFHS Student School Board Members

To the Community,

Unless you are up to date on all of the Menomonee Falls School Board Meetings, most of you probably don’t know who we are. To give you a little background we are two high school seniors at MFHS who were selected at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year to be student school board members. This means that we provide insight on the high school through the direct eyes of the students. Now, what does this mean for you?

Well, students, this means we are giving you a voice. Sometimes, you may feel removed from your school. It is hard to understand big changes and ominous words such as budget cuts when it seems as if no one tells you anything. Half of you are probably unaware of who it is, behind the scenes, of the decisions being made that will ultimately affect you. Whether you are a freshman, spending a lot more time at the high school or seniors just about to graduate, the School Board makes decisions that affect both your learning and future success after graduation. These are changes that you deserve to know about. Why should us students remain passive in a world that is changing all around us? Essentially, as students school board members we are here to make you more comfortable about your position in the school district. You should know what is going on, and know that your best interests are being considered even when it may not seem like it.

Now, parents, this letter is meant to be reassuring. We want you to know, that as students ourselves, the Menomonee Falls School District is carefully making sure that the needs of your children are being met. This not only takes place at the high school level, but district wide. We sit at the Board of Education meetings every two weeks knowing that your School Board members are deliberately allocating their time and the money that your taxes have contributed to build a better district for your students. Trust us, we have sat through many a meeting revolving around monotonous numbers that are being looked at every which way. There are policies that are discussed multiple meetings in a row before they are voted upon to make sure that the School Board is providing the best education for the students. It may seem that money just keeps pouring into the district to no avail, but we ask you to reconsider. Look at the heart of the referendum (why we need it and how it will work), see the bright spots in the district, and believe that this school district is helping your children build upon a competitive education that will only help them grow in this expanding world.

As this is our first letter to you, students and parents, we will talk about the thing that we’ve spent the most time discussing and what the community seems to know the least about: the referendum. The amount of money that a school district has permission to spend in a given year is called the revenue limit, which includes both local taxes and state aid. Basically, since the early 90s the state has set limits in order to prevent over taxation, and every two years the state adjusts the limits as needed. These limits are based on, among other things, the student population and property values.  Unfortunately, for the past 6-7 years, the state has been setting these limits lower than they usually do, including not adjusting them for inflation, resulting in less state aid for many school districts around Wisconsin. This problem is especially troubling for our district due to our village being deemed a “property wealthy” community, resulting in portions of our state aid being reallocated to less affluent communities.

To compound this further, our district has had a slightly declining enrollment recently which has since begun to level off. But, since the state gives priority to funding growing districts, our recently flat student population has led to a further decline in funding. Since these decreases in funding have occurred -while the operating costs have remained as high as ever due to increasing academic standards, various course offerings, and inflation- we are left in a tough situation. This gap between what we need to spend in order to have a productive and exceptional learning environment for our community’s children, and how much the state is allowing us needs to be made up somehow.

Therefore, the School District of Menomonee Falls has voted to put an operating referendum on the ballot for April 2017. The proposed operating referendum will seek to increase the revenue limit by 2% for the next three years. The key difference between this question and last year’s question is that this referendum is not permanent meaning that after three years the district would have to ask the community again before they could continue to raise the revenue limit. This was the largest piece of feedback given to the school board after last year’s operating referendum did not pass.

This 2% increase would allow the board to run the district effectively while also being able to monitor how the district enrollment as well as state funding changes over the next three years. If this question does not pass in April, there will be major cut backs within the district that would cause very visible changes within the district.

These would include redistricting the elementary schools in order to pool resources which would increase class sizes, and cutting many elective and extracurricular courses/activities. The rest of these changes can be seen on the district website under the referendum 2017 tab.

Also on the website, you can find more background information about the referendum including ways the district has cut back on costs in recent years, and the specifics of how the referendum would impact your or your parents district tax contribution.
While we are not here to force the option of the referendum on you, we are here to educate you about why this referendum is occurring. Students and parents, consider how you see your future education and the education of your children. Look at what the school district values, and make an informed decision come April.

 

Sincerely,
Student School Board Members

Katelyn Macholl and Rob Kearney

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