Column: We’re pursuing a process that already exists

By Alan Koehler – Guest Columnist

At the core the detachment from the Hopkins school district is a matter of citizens working together to make a change in the public institution that has the governing and taxing authority for their properties. There is a long history both in this country and in this state for citizens to utilize their rights to make changes to political boundaries in order to align with the institution best situated to provide necessary public services. In our situation, Minnesota state law allows for owners at the periphery of school district boundaries to detach from one and attach to an adjoining.

Since the inception of the Hopkins district in the 1880s, our neighborhood has existed at periphery in many different ways. The one and only school operated by the district in relative proximity to our neighborhood, Harley Hopkins Elementary, closed in 1981. For over 31 years the residents of our neighborhood have paid property taxes into a district that reallocated those resources to better serve students residing in other neighborhoods and communities within the Hopkins district.

As a consequence of these decisions to prioritize the focus and resources on other areas of the district, there has been a decades-long evolution of our families seeking to enroll our children in the schools that are located in close proximity to our homes. The net result is that during the current school year there are only nine children from the neighborhood enrolled in Hopkins schools while 133 are enrolled in Edina schools.

A financial impact analysis indicates that detachment would decrease Hopkins district revenue by an estimated $557,747, while increasing Edina district revenue by an estimated 519,811.  Combining these estimates with the enrollment data above demonstrates that our neighborhood pays taxes equivalent to almost $62,000 per child attending Hopkins schools while the proposed change would equate to $3,908 per child being shifted to Edina schools which is the de facto serving district for our neighborhood.  While this data illustrates why some people would want to preserve the status quo, we believe that an objective analysis will lead to the conclusion that this is both untenable and inappropriate.

Finally, some have suggested that our detachment would “release the genie from the bottle.” What these individuals fail to acknowledge is that we are pursuing a statutory process that has existed for over 60 years.  Secondly, they fail to recognize that the statute requires a property (or properties petitioning together) to be adjacent to an existing boundary line. Thirdly, these arguments suggest that allowing citizens to pursue rights granted to them by the state legislature represents an unacceptable risk, which suggests that citizens exist for the benefit of public institutions rather than public institutions existing for the benefit of citizens. The genie was released from the bottle 236 years ago when this country forged a new path that posited that the authority to tax and govern emanated from the citizens, and not vice versa, and that political boundaries were not sacrosanct but could be changed, in whole or in part, as necessary.

Unite Edina Chair Alan Koehler wrote this on behalf of the 415 families who comprise Unite Edina 273.