Local schools talk about district needs with state senator

Smaller, rural school districts feel more need for funding than larger schools

A few local schools in Minnesota got a special visit from their state senator. Sen. Jeremy Miller of Winona stopped by Caledonia and La Cresent-Hokah schools Wednesday to talk with staff and students.

Miller is stopping at nursing homes, small businesses and schools in his district all this week. Wednesday at Caledonia and La Cresent-Hokah schools he talked with faculty about their school’s needs and what they would like to see from him and the state moving forward. The difficulties of rural school districts was a main concern.

“One of my philosophies is the work that I do at the Capitol I want to best represent the people from the district that I represent,” Miller said.

While visiting Calendonia and La Cresent school districts, the senator was told of challenges each district faces.

“We have come to the realization that we cannot do things alone. We have to partner, we have to collaborate with other districts,” Ben Barton, superintendent of Caledonia School District, said.

Caledonia Schools are now partnering with the nearby Houston School District in certain academic areas and Barton said it’s because small school districts like Caledonia don’t have the resources.

“If you have a larger student body, you might have the opportunity to offer more kinds of programming. We’re not a large district, we’re a smaller district, but we still feel like our students deserve the same kind of education as any other student across the state of Minnesota,” Barton said.

Barton said the lack of resources comes from a lack of funding, which the La Cresent-Hokah School District notices as well.

“We do not have an equitable system to fund schools in our state,” Ron Wilke, superintendent of La Cresent-Hokah School District, said.

Wilke said the lack of funding for education is leading to less opportunity for students.

“Well certainly we work very hard, we work very hard on that achievement gap in terms of supporting student learning in the instructional area, but I think on some levels there’s also an opportunity gap and that’s connected to funding,” Wilke said.

But Wilke feels that by having Miller see the schools, he will see the need for more funding.

“I think Sen. Miller has a clear understanding of what needs to occur on that legislative level to insure that there is equitable access to resources, equitable resources for all school districts, for all students in the state,” Wilke said.

The La Cresent-Hoakh School District is currently looking to update its elementary school and part of the high school. The district said with added funding it would be easier to make those much-needed changes.