Westonka Schools to decide on $91.5M November bond referendum

The Westonka School Board is meeting Monday night, June 5, 2023 at 6pm in the Performing Arts Center to discuss a facilities $91.5M bond referendum for the November 2023 ballot. The bond would ultimately cost school district taxpayers $170M according to the school’s financial analysis, more than doubling the district’s current debt load.

According to the MN Department of Education Score Card, Westonka schools have shown a continuous decline, since 2019, in the number of students meeting standards in math. Westonka’s students are also performing worse today than they were in 2018 in all three core areas of math, reading, and science.

This is not a facilities problem. However, the school district, nonetheless, is asking taxpayers to open their wallets, once again, to hand them an additional $91.5M to upgrade facilities. Their last successful facilities bond referendum was for $22M in 2016.  

In order to figure out how much taxpayers were willing to fork over for different kinds of “facility improvements” the school district conducted two, separate, community surveys within the past year. The latest was completed in May of 2023. Both surveys were very similar, focusing on voter perceptions of school performance, capacity, funding, etc. Although the questions were similar on both, the number of people surveyed and the amount of the proposed referendums were significantly different.

The first survey, completed in September 2022 asked 400 participants about their views on a proposed $65M bond referendum. The second, subsequent survey, asked 625 participants about a $93M bond referendum. The earlier September survey was discovered by this author only after a data practices request showed the school district had paid Morris Leatherman $16,000 for the first survey and then paid them an additional $9,000 for the second one.

Readers might wonder why the school district only publicized the results of the latter, second survey. The following could be why:

First Survey (400 participants/$65M referendum):

  • “lack of funding” was indicated by only 16% as a serious issue.
  • “facility needs” was indicated by only 3% as a serious issue.
  • 40% indicated they were “unsure” or “nothing” was a serious issue with the school district.
  • Job performance rating of teachers far exceeded ratings for school board members and administrator (question was dropped from 2nd survey)
  • 44% said property taxes were high
  • 59% said school is adequately funded
  • 84% said school facilities were Excellent or Good
  • 38% opposed “HS Stadium” referendum spending
  • Only 21% didn’t agree with the statement “Westonka School District currently provides for sufficient learning spaces”
  • Only 38% didn’t agree with the statement “Westonka has enough school space to accommodate enrollment”
  • Survey showed a large majority, 57%, were labeled “persuadables,” (i.e., not totally supportive) of a $65M referendum.

Some additional reasons could be:  

  • Survey #2 showed a smaller percentage of “persuadables” at 47% regarding a $93M referendum (total opposition went up from 22% to 26% with increased amount).
  • Both surveys showed that 40% of residents are unwilling to support any property tax increase over $8/mo, and the proposed $91.5M referendum is estimated to cost a $500K homeowner $244 per year for 25 years ($6,100 total). That’s on top of the $132 per year ($2,000 total) that homeowner is already paying for the last $22M facilities referendum in 2016.
  • The referendum amount of $65M on the first survey showed a smaller percentage thinking the proposal was a “bad idea” (21%) vs 29% thinking the $93M referendum was a “bad idea” on survey #2.
  • When asked if the referendum amount was a “Fair Price,” answers went from 35% saying “No” to the $65M referendum, to $40% saying “No” to the $93M referendum.

For those who would like to ask questions of the Westonka school board or examine the surveys and presentations regarding the proposed referendum, you can find all the information on the school’s website.

Ranked Choice Voting – The Left’s attack on competence

It’s easy to manipulate legislators and voters who are confused. And even our RCV loving Secretary of State is pumping the brakes, ever so softly, on this legislation because of RCV’s “complexity.” Most people, including state legislators, can’t even begin to explain how it works because RCV vote counting, despite the propaganda, is anything but simple.

We all know Left wing ideas don’t need to be understood before being embraced by the masses. If the right buzz words are attached and repeated often enough, via bankrolled advertising campaigns, that’s usually enough to pull in low information voters.

The buzz words dropped Friday at the capitol during the Left’s rally for RCV included the usual “equity, inclusion, diversity” chants along with promising “marginalized” and “POC” candidates more opportunities to acheive public office. All of that sounds very virtuous. Who doesn’t want to encourage good candidates to run for office? Answer: The Left.

Ranked Choice Voting is the Left’s latest weapon against competence. First, RCV does not count every ranked choice vote. It elevates only the votes of those who vote for “fringe,” or losing, candidates. Fringe candidates are those who receive the fewest votes and are typically without much experience, competence or public trust/support. That’s why they end up on the bottom. But, get this, only the second choice votes from the bottom candidate get redistributed to the other candidates until a majority is won. RCV gives the least qualified candidates, and their supporters, proportionally more control over our election outcomes. How is this a good idea? One need only look at the Minneapolis City Council (elected using RCV) to answer that.

Individual attributes demonstrating excellence and competence are important when evaluating people for all sorts of critical jobs like surgeons, pilots, architects, teachers, and, I’d argue, elected leaders who vote on public policy.

Our current political process, as flawed and imperfect as it is, provides a means to compete with other candidates to determine the most qualified. Our current election process also allows for run-off elections where, if necessary, voters get to choose between two top candidates they know, rather than casting a blind “automatic” second choice having an unknown impact on the final outcome.

The word meritocracy has gotten a bad rap recently in our woke culture, seeing its meaning (i.e., Rule by merit or talent, established by competition) distorted and equated with “bias,” which, interestingly, shows up as an antonym for the word! If you look up antonyms of “meritocracy” you’ll find: discrimination, prejudice, inequity, bias, unfairness, partisanship, one-sidedness, etc.

Discrimination? Bias? Inequity? Unfairness? Aren’t these things we all abhor? Shouldn’t we embrace, then, the opposite? Shouldn’t we embrace, then, meritocracy and the competition among candidates which leads to the best ones being elected? The Left thinks not.

RCV makes it harder for candidates to win who are vetted, experienced, competent, intelligent and, most importantly, have broad public support. In addition, it benefits the Left and its splinter parties (Grassroots Legalize Cannabis party, Legal Marijuana Now party, Green Party) by giving their voters more influence (more votes) in our elections. Implementation of RCV would virtually guarantee the end of our ability to elect the best and brightest leaders, whether they be POC, women, marginalized or of different faiths. There’s nothing good about that.

The less qualified, inexperienced, and ignorant our elected leaders are, the easier they are to control and manipulate with propaganda. RCV delivers on that promise.