Members of the Palmyra-Eagle school district submitted signatures on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019 in an effort to force an advisory referendum this November. Organizers see the referendum as an opportunity to give voters a chance to officially weigh in on the question of whether or not the district should dissolve – a question they feel is very different from the one voters said “no” to last spring, when they rejected an operational funding referendum.
After the failed and highly divisive referendum this spring, the district board voted to dissolve and the fate of the district is now in the hands of DPI and the state’s School District Boundary Appeals Board, which will hold listening sessions after the November election. The board could either reject the district’s decision to dissolve, or it could draw new boundaries moving Palmyra-Eagle students to schools in surrounding districts. That process is complicated and potentially contentious – as is the matter of state funding for these students, and responsibility for absorbing existing debt. The question of what’s next for the district’s students, educators, facilities, and taxpayers has created even more uncertainty in a community still reeling from a very painful spring election.
According the Daily Union, the dissolution “would displace nearly 800 students within the district and leave more than 100 district employees without jobs. In addition, it would leave the taxpayers of the district with over $14 million of long-term debt over the next 10 years for buildings that might stand empty.”
“It literally makes my heart hurt,” says Josie Kysely, a junior at Palmyra-Eagle. “My grade is kind of going through it the worst. Not being able to graduate at the school I’ve been going to for ten years just blows my mind,” she told Ruth Conniff, who covered the story for Wisconsin Examiner. Click here to read the whole story, which includes an explanation of how the dissolution process works and examines local perspectives on the issue.
We’ll be following what happens next closely, and urge you to do the same. At a time when districts all over the state are saying they can no longer afford “funding by referendum,” all eyes are on Palmyra-Eagle to see what happens next when voters are unwilling or unable to support local schools with increases to property taxes.