Robert L. Hale, Minot
I would like to congratulate the voters in Minot for their two decisions on Dec. 10 related to the Minot Public School $125 million bond proposal. First for rejecting the bond measure itself and second for rejecting increasing the district's bonding debt ceiling.
Rejecting the $125 million bonding authorization is a major step toward addressing the long-term needs of K-12 education in Minot and across the state. Today funding of school facilities across the state is haphazard at best. The state Legislature has an unconditional constitutional duty to fully fund our K-12 schools.
The state is not meeting its constitutional mandate. Instead, over the years the state has shifted this responsibility to local school districts. This was done by directing our K-12 schools districts to impose property taxes as a means of providing school buildings and whatever other school costs the State chose not to fund. It is time the parents/citizens and taxpayers direct their legislative representatives to meet their constitutional obligation.
The state has the resources and the tools to meet these obligations. First, the state has the School Lands Trust. The common schools (K-12) Trust has land and mineral acres whose value is between $6.5 billion and $8 billion. In addition the Trusts have more $3.5 billion in cash currently invested in Wall Street.
Trust lands and trust cash assets are only one of the state's significant resources available to fund our K-12 schools. The Legislature not only has the responsibility to, "provide for a uniform system of free public schools throughout the state" it has the resources. It is also clear that unless we force our elected legislators to meet their duty they will not.
The failure of Minot's school bond issue provides a huge opportunity to fix our state's broken K-12 funding mess. We need to come together now and require our State Legislature to fully fund our schools. All necessary authority and funds are currently available for them to do so. We need to make it clear we want our representatives to do what the constitution says they must do or elect representatives that will.
One matter needs to be addressed immediately that is the safety and security measures we were told need to be implemented. The proponents of the bond measure identified $5.5 million in such expenses. The district has close to three times this amount in unallocated cash reserves. We would hope the district immediately undertakes implementation of these safety and security measures. If our children are at risk, delaying implementation when the district has our tax dollars in the bank to do so would be inexcusable.
Rejecting raising the school bonding debt ceiling was an important decision by voters. This rejection will help make it clear that citizens/voters/taxpayers are serious when it comes to demanding our legislators meet their duties. It will also help slow down the explosive growth of our local government. Congratulations, Minot voters.