Bond issue vital to Minot

Roscoe Streyle, Minot

I’m writing to express my support for the upcoming Minot Public Schools bond issue. As one of the most conservative members in the North Dakota House of Representatives, this stance may surprise a few people. I will explain my stance on why it’s so vitally important to pass the bond issue. First, to clear up some misconceptions about what the State of North Dakota’s role is or should be in funding schools. The construction of schools is not a state issue, but rather a local decision. The state has not, and most likely will not, directly fund school infrastructure projects now or in the future and I agree with this stance. Can and should the state do more to help communities experiencing strong growth through impact grants or other funding sources? Yes, I think so, but the reality is the state is not going to give school districts large amounts of money to build schools.

I’ve heard ideas like capping the principal allowed to flow into the constitutionally mandated common schools trust fund or using the fund to guarantee school construction bonds, both of which are good ideas. The State of Texas’ trust fund does something similar by implicitly backing school bonds, thereby lowering the interest cost on the bonds and it has worked great. The idea of a governor-called special session early next year that could more adequately address western North Dakota needs is an option, but not likely; although I would support such an idea if revenue continues to be far above budget projections.

Minot Public Schools has done very little in the way of new facilities and major improvements to school buildings in the past 40 years. Yes, there have been upgrades and small improvements to many of the buildings, but not much done to increase capacity. The last bond issue was 44 years ago after the 1969 flood. This was probably acceptable at the time, considering there was little to no growth in the city or school district, but times have changed in Minot and in North Dakota.

The school district has absorbed 1,300-plus new students in the past six years and expects to absorb 1,000-plus in the next five years. The total number of children expected in 2018 is 8,200, which would be a 2,300-student increase in a decade. To me this is simple economics. Demand is not equal to supply and the only way to address the issue is to increase supply. The question I have for the detractors is if the bond fails and capacity is not increased, where do you propose the school district put the kids? Should they add to its fleet of portable classrooms, which stands at 24 now? Should they turn gyms and lunchrooms into classrooms? Should they stack desks on top of desks? No, the fact they have that many students learning in substandard portables now should be alarming and an embarrassment to everyone in the community.

As the old saying goes, “You’re either growing or you’re dead.” This is the choice before us now. Either you want to continue to grow and move forward as a community or you want to talk about the “old” Minot and how you miss it. There was much to like about the “old” Minot, don’t get me wrong, but there is much more to like about the “new” Minot, a strong and growing economy and community.

We can point fingers in many directions regarding the issues the City of Minot and Minot Public Schools are facing today, but the primary takeaway for me is “leadership matters.” Now, more than ever, we need strong leadership. I believe that the current administration and school board are the right people at the right time to lead this district through this challenging time. They are all very competent, honest, forward thinking, and most importantly, trustworthy leaders. The Minot community should be proud of the plan put forward and the vision that the school board and administration have laid out for the future.

I support this bond issue as a father, state legislator, and citizen of this great city. I hope enough citizens believe in the concept of providing the best possible opportunity for the next generation to succeed and to leave this place and community better than when you arrived. The Minot area has made many investments in city infrastructure, with a new airport and various MSU projects, but has not made the most important investment of all investments in our children. Minot does have many critical needs, I understand that, but without adequate and timely investments in our educational infrastructure we will not continue to grow and prosper.