Name: Allen Dahlgren
Family: Four children: LeAnna, Andrew, Alex, Luke
Employment: Regional franchise manager
1. Please share your background and relevant experience?
I graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1984 and have since carved out a business career in the private sector. I have worked for others and have been an entrepreneur. I am currently employed as a regional manager for a well-known retail chain and oversee 47 West Coast stores. I have a very strong understanding of financial management and financials. I know money doesn’t grow on trees and understand how to work within a budget. Most of my life has been spent at the school of hard knocks, and I have learned much from it. I don’t look down my nose at anyone, and I’m not predisposed to thinking I’m better than anyone. Everyone should have a voice and I’m willing and able to listen.
2. What is the school district’s biggest issue?
The biggest issue facing the schools is figuring out how to continue to educate the normal, well-rounded St. Cloud native student. Another way of saying this is the increasing education cross subsidy is a problem. The cross subsidy is the dollars the district has to rob from the funding for traditional students to pay for the unfunded state and federal mandates to educate troubled, special education and ESL students. The state loves to make services mandatory, and with good reason, but they can’t seem to find funding for them. The district, therefore, has to comply with the law and is forced to take money out of the general fund (the fund that pays for the education of the traditional students) to pay for the mandated services in special education. This leaves a declining available balance in the general fund and has the net effect of lessening the district’s ability to educate your kid, the traditional student. Too many very good kids end up falling through the cracks.
3. If elected, how do you propose to address this issue?
This is the epic question in education. It’s not just about how to educate this group; it’s about how to educate all groups. All kids deserve a quality education. I think the first place to look is at improving efficiency where you can. The second place you look is to the legislature, pressuring them to get their priorities straight and fund mandated services. It’s the constitutional duty of the state government to provide for education so if they feel a service is worth mandating then they should fund it. Maybe before spending their fun money on projects like a southwest corridor light rail, or a Saints stadium, they should get their financial house in order and pay for your child’s education like the constitution says.
4. If the school district is forced to make budget cuts, what areas are off limits?
Well, as I stated before, the state has taken a very large portion of the budget and put it off limits to cuts. That kind of gets to the crux of my primary issue. All the spending cuts come from the general fund, which educates the traditional students. Sort of like when you get your pay cut at work. Your house payment and utility bills are mandated, so the cuts come from the rest. The rest here is the traditional student – your kid. When you’re left with that, then the cuts tend to eat at the periphery of the traditional education. Music, athletics, activities, busing are the first things to go. I think that is wrong. I believe the answers may be elsewhere, in efficiency and productivity solutions rather than continuing to do everything the same way and chopping parts or all of it. Off limits would be the things that affect the educational experience of kids. Elementary class sizes should not be increased. Athletics and music should not be cut. Busing should not be cut.
5. What areas would you cut?
We might start with food and beverages at internal meetings, cell phone plans for administrators and more. It sounds frivolous, but I was always taught pennies add up to nickels, which add up to dimes, which add up to dollars. Those dollars might be better spent elsewhere. I think at some point, some senior high classes may have to go to a lecture-hall format. If it’s OK to send a 19 year old off to a college where they sit in a 1,000-person lecture hall, it seems we should be open to some smaller format, lecture hall classes for 17 and 18 year olds in senior high school. That would free up some staff positions to keep elementary teacher/student ratio in place. I definitely DO NOT believe in cutting that which hurts parents the most first in an effort to bolster tax-referendum success.
6. What are the school district’s strongest assets and weaknesses?
Every great organization is only great because of its people. District 742 is no different; 742 has many great teachers, administrators and support persons in place. It’s because of their desire and drive that this district is one of the best in the state. Every person has a role and a responsibility and this district does a great job, with the resources provided, of providing kids with a great experience, safety and education. I think one of the biggest shortfalls relates to communication. Communication between schools and parents, especially at the secondary level, in the Internet age should be better. Skyward was a good first step but parents need more timely and accurate information on their kids’ progress.