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Gelbmann seeks fifth term on board

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Jim Gelbmann said he still has unfinished business.

After serving 16 years on District 833 School Board, the Woodbury man said he is seeking re-election in hopes of tackling one last major issue: the state's education finance formula.

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"The Minnesota Miracle of 1973 has become the Minnesota nightmare for a number of Minnesota districts," said Gelbmann, one of seven candidates vying for three School Board seats.

He said districts like South Washington County find themselves at a disadvantage when it comes time for referendum measures. Districts that house more commercial property have an easier go, he said.

But in cities like Woodbury and Cottage Grove - where commercial property isn't as prevalent - residential homeowners are forced to pick up more of the bill, he said.

"The quality of education shouldn't depend on the value of the property in the district in which they live," Gelbmann said.

The four-term board member - who works full-time as Minnesota deputy secretary of state - said he would leverage his contacts at the Capitol to help pass new legislation. He envisions a funding mechanism that draws on state income and sales taxes, rather than property taxes. Such a plan would "provide a much more equitable means of funding education," he said.

In coming years, the district may again be forced to look at budget cuts. Noting that he has proposed salary freezes for administrators and limiting out of state travel for School Board members, Gelbmann said he would be willing to do more if needed - but said he would first consider raising revenue, complaining that the state's education funding has not kept pace with the rate of inflation.

When it comes to one of the district's recent hot-button issues - Spanish immersion - Gelbmann said he is supportive of the program, but not supportive of displacing students from existing buildings to make space for an expanded immersion program.

Turning to the federal No Child Left Behind Act, Gelbmann said he continues to seek changes to system that has "been much more punitive to districts and schools that don't make adequate yearly progress, as opposed to helping and providing additional resources to those schools that don't reach those specific goals."

Gelbmann said he supports more realistic, attainable benchmarks.

Also on the district's horizon is the renewal of its levy, which expires in 2013. It's possible the School Board could propose a per-pupil funding increase on the levy next year - an option Gelbmann said he would be hesitant to support.

"I won't support a 2012 referendum unless we absolutely need the money to provide a quality education," he said.

Name: Jim Gelbmann

Age: 53

City: Woodbury

Education: Bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota-Morris

Occupation: Minnesota deputy secretary of state

Family: Wife, Mary; children, Andrew (26), Chris (23), Sophie (17) and Lizzie (15)

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Michael Longaecker
Mike Longaecker is editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. His coverage includes local crime, legislative activity and prep sports. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker
(651) 702-0973
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