Column: From the Desk

This past week has been very difficult for Fergus Falls. I just don’t understand neglect and abuse of a child. This tragedy has affected many in our community including our Fergus Falls Public Schools’ students and staff. 

Jill Damrau, first-grade teacher, shared the following email with staff last week …“ Our town recently experienced a terrible tragedy involving a child.  I’m hoping your heart feels like mine – this child needs to be remembered.  I’m guessing his short life did not include much happiness due to circumstances out of his control and ours.  But, he can be FOREVER remembered if we work together to collect money for a plaque at the Angel of Hope in Adams/Grotto Park.  If we collect more money than necessary, the extra funds could help with expenses for his brother.  Let’s show this child that his life DID matter.”

If you would also like to donate for the Angel of Hope plaque, you can drop off money at any of our schools.  Checks should be made out to ISD #544 and place “Angel of Hope” in the memo line.  Thank you for your support.

Fergus Falls Public Schools Named A Top School

Last week, I received an email from the manager of He notified us that their company just posted their 2018 ranking of the Top School Districts in Minnesota and Fergus Falls Public School District made the list!

The press release also shared the following: Frosty Minnesota takes public education seriously. The Land of 10,000 Lakes ranked seventh in the nation in pre-K-12 education in US News & World Report’s latest survey of nationwide public education quality. The pleasant demeanor and high rate of civic participation of Minnesota’s citizens is a testament to the state’s terrific school systems.

Wayzata Public Schools, Edina Public Schools, Minnetonka Public Schools were named the top three schools out of the 100 schools named.  Fergus Falls was ranked No. 60.  Other top 100 schools in the area included:  No. 31 Alexandria, No. 43 Barnesville, No. 50 Hawley, No. 57 Battle Lake, No. 79 Wheaton, No. 96 Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton and No. 100 Osakis. The following contributed to the ranking: student performance (math and reading test scores), dropout rates, school funding and area poverty rates. Data was collected from a total of 9,577 school districts.

Special Education Cross Subsidy

In a recent press release, Governor Dayton stated that he is proposing more than $19 million per year to help school districts meet rising special education costs.  Without action, the funding gap for school districts is projected to grow to $817 million by FY 2021. The Fergus Falls Public Schools would receive $55,191.

Minnesota has a history of leading when it comes to supporting students with disabilities. Sixty years ago, Minnesota was the first state in the nation to pass a special education law. The landmark legislation created a model for the eventual passage of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Today, Minnesota’s ability to provide a great education to every student, everywhere in the state, is impacted by the rising costs of special education.

When the federal government passed the first federal mandates in 1975 regarding special education services, they committed to cover approximately 40 percent of the cost. However, in the 2017-18 school year, the federal government will cover only about 12 percent of the cost. Even with state funding for special education, districts are left with a sizable funding gap, often called the special education “cross subsidy.” Nearly every school district in Minnesota uses money from their general fund to cover the rising costs of special education services. The average cross subsidy for Minnesota school districts is $783 per student. Fergus Falls’ cross subsidy is $800 per student. In total, the cross subsidy has grown from $600 million for fiscal year 2014, to $672 million for 2017. The gap is projected to balloon to $817 million by FY 2021.

Jerry Ness is the superintendent of the Fergus Falls School District. His column appears on Wednesdays.


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