Across Minn., school funding finds support at the polls

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School funding measures won strong support at the polls Tuesday. Districts seeking to raise taxes were much more likely this year than last to win voter approval.

Forty-four of 53 districts passed operating referendums, according to the Minnesota School Boards Association.

"In an odd year when you can get the message out for why you need the money ... I think it has a lot better chance of getting approved," communications director Greg Abbott said.

Districts seeking building and technology money had more mixed results, with 28 of 41 levies approved. Still, Abbott said that approval rate is higher than in past years.

The state's largest school district passed a record-breaking $249 million bond issue. Anoka-Hennepin superintendent David Law said the district needs the funds to replace portable classrooms and renovate areas like media and science spaces.

"For our older buildings, we're going to bring in some upgrades to make them feel new inside," Law said.

The picture wasn't as rosy elsewhere in the state. Most of the districts that failed to pass funding proposals were in districts outside the Twin Cities, according to Abbott. He cited a smaller tax base in those districts.

"The Legislature and the people in those small districts have been trying to work out a way to get more equity for those districts that don't have a good property tax base, but it's complex just like with anything," Abbott said.

Seats also turned over in closely-watched school board races Tuesday.

In the St. Paul school district, Marny Xiong will join the board after winning more than 30 percent of votes, according to unofficial results. Incumbents John Brodrick and Jeannie Foster won the other two open seats. All three were endorsed by the St. Paul DFL party.

The Edina school board race grabbed headlines after a controversial mailer criticizing school curriculum and outcomes was distributed by the conservative think tank Center of the American Experiment. Both incumbents failed to hold their seats, according to unofficial results. Three candidates recommended by the local teachers union and one recommended by the local Republican party took the four open seats.