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The people have spoken

Our view: What do you want your school district to be?

The Glencoe-Silver Lake School District asked its residents for an increase in operating revenue. We recommended voters approve it. Nov. 6, they decided otherwise.
In a democracy, that is their right.
But with that right comes responsibility. Leaders in the district say they aren’t 100 percent certain why the request for an increase in operating funds was rejected. They could collect opinions and formulate an educated guess.
Heading into Election Day, the feedback GSL School District Superintendent Chris Sonju received from residents was overwhelmingly positive. The few people who showed up for public meetings were supportive. There was no one insisting the district tighten its belt, no organized group of residents reportedly calling for reduction of spending.
It’s easy to offer those types of suggestions over coffee with friends and anonymously via social media. Such comments are neither helpful, respectful or productive.
Residents in a free society have an obligation to be all those things and more.
You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem. GSL receives as little or less per-student aid from taxpayers as any district in the region.
What do you want your school district to be?
A sage Glencoe resident recently said residents of the GSL school district don’t do well when it comes to supporting the district until they have a gun to their head. It’s a brutal metaphor. Is it true? The last operating levy renewal in 2011 took multiple attempts to pass.
The district has a right to ask its residents this question: What do you want?
Do residents want a school district that is progressive, moving forward, preparing children to be successful in the next chapter of life, a district that attracts students and additional state aid? Do they want a district where students leave for area schools and take with them the state aid they generate? Do they want a school district where the best teachers leave for jobs elsewhere, better-paying jobs in districts that support the district?
Sonju said the referendum was intended to maintain existing programming, protect a 20-percent fund balance threshold and take advantage of additional state aid. The voters' decision means the district won’t receive the additional $63,000 in state aid that would have come with the infusion of local dollars.
During the candidates’ forum in Glencoe, a great deal of concern was pointed at the school board spending down its fund balance. It is now at about 23 percent, just over the board’s policy 20 percent target.
The school district will likely offer another referendum next fall, once again asking voters to approve a slight increase in funding. To be fiscally responsible, the school district will have to have in hand plans to cut programs in 2019-2020 should voters once again decline the request.
Hopefully, the district will be able to make a case more people will heed.