Vote yes Tuesday

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

Storm Lake School District voters will be asked next Tuesday whether to issue $20 million in bonds for early childhood education facilities. They should vote yes for safety, for a wholesome education environment, and to keep The City Beautiful growing into the future.

Enrollment is up 7% this year in the elementary school, and the population shows all signs of growing. To make do, administrators have to use shared, open spaces for classrooms. That goes against the district’s safety policy, which seeks to have students in a secure environment where doors can be locked. It is difficult to learn as traffic goes past or through the “classroom.” And it will only grow worse with enrollment gains, which are sure to come.

This cannot be the state of our schools.

The elementary school is more than 250 students over capacity. This is not the Fort Madison prison, where you tell them to make do. This is a school. You would not jam 250 extra hogs into a confinement, because it just doesn’t work. It doesn’t work with children, either.

We have tried to make do with shared spaces and portable classrooms (which are not the safest). The school board has maintained one of the lowest tax rates in the state for a “property-poor” district (without that much taxable farmland). After the issue narrowly failed last year, the district stretched out the financing for a longer period to bring down the overall annual tax increase to about $80 on the average Storm Lake home. That’s a reasonable cost for such an urgent need, especially in light of the fact that the school board primarily used sales taxes to build the elementary school and expand the high school.

Supporters have sprouted their signs around town. Supt. Stacey Cole said she has heard from opponents. In the last election, the opposition popped up late. The supporters have done a good job in drumming up like minds, canvassing, writing letters and putting up yard signs. They have put in the work to earn your vote.

Turnout in the last election was near 20% of registered voters. Every school employee, every mother and father with a child in school, and everyone who wants to see Storm Lake as the leading city in Northwest Iowa must get out and vote. Don’t leave it to someone else. We owe it to history to get the job done this time, and demonstrate our commitment to education again.

From a son of immigrants

God bless Don Lamberti. The man who founded Casey’s General Stores out of tiny Booneville, the son of immigrants who hauled coal for his dad, just gave Buena Vista University another $2.9 million for its rural entrepreneurship program. Previously, Lamberti endowed the recreation center under his name, and the science center, and gave $3 million during a capital campaign in 2011. His generosity to BVU is overwhelming. He had no connection to Storm Lake or BV — Lamberti’s education was a two-year degree from the American Institute of Business in Des Moines, now defunct. He just believes in the place.

Lamberti told us eight years ago that he gives money to Buena Vista because he wants to see the next Iowa entrepreneurial success come from there. Lamberti specifically cited immigrants. “The greenest people are always the entrepreneurs,” he said. He said he wanted to build up the rural communities that helped build his chain of convenience stores, and he thought BVU was the best vehicle in Iowa to do it.

Lamberti was close friends with former President Keith Briscoe, who infused the campus with an entrepreneurial spirit. Current President Josh Merchant is doing the same thing with rural and ag initiatives. So it is perfectly fitting that Lamberti would endow the new rural entrepreneurship program, which seeks to build Northwest Iowa’s agriculture, its economy, its culture and its communities. We are grateful that Don Lamberti has faith in Iowa’s next great success story, who just might come from the pretty little campus on the lakeshore and who well might be the son or daughter of an immigrant, just like him.

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