Ignite Student Learning

Dear RPS community,

At last night's School Board meeting, the Board voted to place a referendum on the November 5 ballot seeking $19.4 million annually to protect and enhance educational programs and student services. The referendum would support the district’s new investment plan to “Ignite Student Learning.” Guided by feedback from residents, this plan was developed to stabilize our operating budget, strengthen our curriculum, and support the programs that will ensure our students are ready for life after graduation. 

This memo outlines the specific positions and programs that would be funded through the referendum if it is approved by voters.

Rochester Public Schools is at a crossroads. Over the last two years, we have cut more than $20 million from the district's operating budget, directly impacting our ability to deliver high-quality academics by eliminating more than 150 staff positions. Following the narrow failure of the capital projects levy in November of 2023, we were forced to announce the closure of multiple schools and major reductions in student programs and services. Fortunately, Mayo Clinic’s donation of $10 million and use of our budget reserve enabled us to avoid making major reductions for the 2024-2025 school year. Unfortunately, neither funding from Mayo Clinic nor reserve funds can address the projected deficits we face over the next few years, including a $19.3 million deficit for the 2025-2026 school year.

Like other school districts across the state, Rochester Public Schools receives most of its funding from Minnesota. However, over the past 20 years, education funding from the state has not kept up with the rising inflation rate and a wide range of state and federal mandates. This chart shows the gap between the funding that school districts in Minnesota have received from the state's General Fund and the funding those school districts would have received if state funding had kept pace with inflation.

That is why the district is seeking an operating levy increase to raise approximately $19.4 million annually for ten years, subject to increase at the rate of inflation. The additional funding will allow the district to maintain faculty and staff, protect class sizes, and allow us to build on our progress to help all students reach their full potential.

Over the coming weeks and months, we look forward to continuing to engage the RPS community and explain how this investment will enable us to further ignite student learning.

Thank you,

Kent Pekel, Ed.D

All documents can be accessed through our 2024 Referendum Folder.

All links are also available below:

  • Memo outlining specific positions and programs funded through a 2024 Referendum

  • Chart showing the gap in funding