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Letter: Vote yes -- our children are counting on us

By Orissa Nitibhon, Worthington

I am writing today to express my support for the 2018 School Bond Referendum. As we all know, enrollment for ISD 518 schools has exceeded building capacities, and continuous growth is projected. Our schools need more space for our students to obtain knowledge and develop the skills they need to survive and thrive in today’s world. The addition of another education building would result in less-crowded classrooms and the ability to retain intellectually stimulating courses, such as advanced placement (AP) and electives, which would better equip our students for postsecondary education or employment.

It will take three years to build a new school. During that time, enrollment will continue to grow — more students will be stuffed into already-crowded classrooms. Recent studies suggest that class size plays a significant role in student outcome, and that in general, increasing class sizes will harm student outcomes (Schanzenbach 2014).

Why do smaller classes create a better learning environment? In the perspective of the teacher, smaller classes allow for close monitoring of the academic progress of each individual student — the teacher spends less time on classroom management, and thus, has more time to spend on instruction. In the perspective of the students, research has shown that students in smaller classes have better “engagement behaviors,” defined by the amount of effort they put into school work, as well as their participation in classroom activities (Finn 1997).

Not only do small classes yield better results on test scores, but they also have positive effects on the life outcomes of students. It was found that students assigned to smaller classes were better than their peers (in regular-sized classes) across a diverse set of outcomes, including juvenile criminal behavior, teen pregnancy, high school graduation, college enrollment (and completion), quality of college attended, savings behavior, marriage rates and homeownership (Dynarski and Hyman 2013). This vote is about SO much more than just money.

Now, I understand that no one out there wants to pay MORE taxes — I don’t think I will live to see the day in which an increase in taxes is greeted with jubilance and celebration. However, I also understand that our young Trojans need our support now more than ever. It is our duty as adults to pave the way to success, so that our children can pursue their dreams, and turn them into a reality. Education is the most powerful tool we can give to our children, to prevent them from becoming closed-minded, judgmental, and/or insensitive adults.

This new proposal drops plans for a new stadium, athletic fields and other expenses that don’t address our main issue, which is overcrowded classrooms (due to limited space). These cuts allow for a significant reduction in the project cost, based on the response from the community after the 2016 election. I respect the school board for making these cuts (worth approximately $10,000,000) as they’ve demonstrated that this plan isn’t about addressing our WANTS, but rather, our NEEDS.

As a recent Worthington High School graduate (Class of ’15) and a senior at Gustavus Adolphus College, I look back and am thankful for the education I received through our school system. AP courses in high school gave me a taste of the academic difficulty of college, and as a first-generation Thai-American college student, this has been the key toward my success as a pre-dental student at Gustavus. These AP courses, which usually had smaller class sizes, are in jeopardy due to the lack of space (replaced with courses that can maximize class size).

We can continue to overfill the classrooms we currently have with extra students. However, that’s like putting a bandage on a broken leg — it might LOOK like a solution, but it definitely won’t do any good in the long run. As mentioned previously, this bond referendum might not benefit you directly, but I know that our selflessness will be well-received by our students. We can all take action to make this plan a reality — eat out less, use energy-saving bulbs, buy a Prius … brush at least twice a day (two minutes each time) and floss — dental work can be very expensive. If anything, wait until I am a dentist before you practice poor dental hygiene!

All of us, as members of this community, can do something to make this vision a reality.

Vote yes — our children are counting on us.