In the coming years, Hopkins Public Schools will have to tackle many complex issues. Patch asked this year’s School Board candidates about how they’d handle some of the major issues facing the district.
Today’s question is:
- How should the Hopkins School Board respond to efforts from property owners like the Unite Edina 273 group to leave the district?
I understand the desire of parents to do what is best for their children. Fortunately one path for educational opportunity is open enrollment. The issues of the request to detach are quite complex. I was the only Board member to sit on both Board Committees that heard the arguments for the request. Ultimately I voted against detachment. A primary reason was due to the shrinkage of the District 270 property tax base. I believed that this detachment would create the potential for opening more requests which would be detrimental to the district and the state. School district boundaries are not the same as municipal boundaries and parent group requests to conform is not in the best interest of the remaining children or taxpayers.
I believe that all members of a community have a right to voice. If an entity has the right to extract funding via taxation, then a group has the right to representation and to have their issues addressed. No matter what the issues may be. I believe in compromise and finding solutions.
Three key points:
- This is a community that has been continuously ignored and mistreated by the district over years.
- Detachment isn’t the only way to solve this problem. To me, it’s the last resort to this community. Alternatives include reactivating the closed schools, or making arrangement between Hopkins and Edina to get priorities in enrollment, etc.
- The board should actively search for a solution and find out what went wrong for the service this community is entitled to. But so far the district and board have zero interest to explore any of them, even with the commitment the superintendent made to the legislature and under the repeated request from the community.
This community used to be the independent Harley district, which voted to join Hopkins over Edina for its proximity. But over years Hopkins closed all of the schools within (the original Harley) and near this community, and the highway further separated the community from Hopkins schools, making Edina schools much closer and safer to access. It resulted 96% of the current ~200 students in this community enrolled somewhere else and many in Edina schools. Hopkins only serves 4% of the students who are mandated and taxed to be served by Hopkins. Something is wrong here. Yet throughout the process no single question was asked by the board or administration on why this is so, what the administration is doing about it, or what can be done to serve the need of this community.
The administration and board only care about their tax privilege over its constituents and have no interest in the educational need of their constituents. In April 2012 the Hopkins superintendent made a commitment to the state legislature to work collaboratively with Edina public schools on a solution to the detachment request. They did nothing afterward, even under the repeated request from the community. They didn’t fulfill their fiduciary duty and failed the community. The fact that the Hopkins district now only serves 78% of its resident children in the district, dramatically down from 92% in 2000, demonstrates that the district is in a highly flawed path.
As a resident of the city of Minnetonka, whose property is within the Hopkins School District boundaries, I can empathize with the rationale and reasoning being presented. As a parent, I too want what is best for my children, which is why I purchased a home within the boundaries of the Hopkins School District. My wife and I wanted our children to have the excellent education that Hopkins provides. Regarding the issue of a neighborhood being removed from the district, I agree with the legislature's decision to not change the current district boundaries. Any redistricting would have a detrimental effect on districts across the state. It is my belief that parents who feel their children are better served by schools outside of the district boundaries should utilize the many options that are currently available, open enrollment is one example.
We live in an incredibly rich state for educational choices. Families have the choice to send their children to traditional public schools, public schools such as charters, private schools, parochial schools, etc. We also have choices as to where we buy our homes, therefore choosing the school district where we live. The members of Unite Edina have all of these choices, and have exercised them. While these choices exist, there is no reason to change long-existing boundary lines of school districts, neither in Hopkins nor anywhere in Minnesota.
One of the best aspects of education in Minnesota is that parents can choose where their children go to school. Parents always know what’s best for their kids! I also understand the concerns of parents who are paying taxes to one school district when their children attend another.
As a school board director, I would similarly be concerned with ensuring the best education possible for Hopkins students. The Hopkins School District is not prepared to lose a large amount of tax revenue and still maintain its current high standard of education. But regardless of actions taken by our school board to prevent it, there is a distinct possibility that boundaries will be redrawn without our consent, based on bills that have already been introduced at the state legislature.
As a school board director, I will look toward the future to ensure that any sudden cuts to funding will not affect our students. I will encourage the board to set aside a little bit of money each year to build a financial “safety net.” If we never have to use it, that’s great, but it’s important to take action now rather than ignore this issue and hope it goes away. We owe it to our current and future students to ensure that school funding will be healthy in the years to come.