In January, the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage school board voted to keep the pay for board members at $450 a month with an additional $50 stipend for the board chair.
It’s been the same pay since 2019, when the District 191 board reduced the monthly stipend from $550 a month to $450 due to budget cuts across the district.
“We were facing a huge financial challenge in this district in which we had to cut millions of dollars out of the budget,” School Board Clerk Lesley Chester said in January.
Board member Antoinette Conner, who voted against keeping the reduced rate in January, said during March 9’s board meeting how during the midterm election, said had conversations with people about whether they may consider running for the board.
She explained to them the responsibilities of a school board member, telling them it could be many hours of reading budget reports and agendas, emails, policies and other duties, including public appearances.
Conner said people would ask her: “‘Well how much does it pay?’”
She would tell them, and “they looked at me, surprised,” Conner said.
“You do all that for that?” Conner said was the most common response she got.
Conner explained how many of the people she talked to worked multiple jobs and could barely make ends meet.
In Conner’s case, she explained her children have already graduated and she’s a widow, giving her more flexibility.
“I do understand how it is when you have a family,” Conner said.
In District 191, about seven out of 10 students are Black, Indigenous or people of color, and almost seven out of 10 students qualify for free or reduced lunch, according to data from the state.
Conner said one of the goals of the district is to have students see people working in the schools that are representative of them, including in the school board room.
“They need representation... just like in school for the teachers of color that we’re trying to recruit, we also need that on the school board. That was part of the reason why I ran,” Conner said.
According to data provided by the district as of August, about 14% of staff identify as BIPOC, and 4% of teachers identify as BIPOC.
“Families are disproportionately disadvantaged due to income and jobs and language barriers and sometimes post-educational levels,” Conner said. “So this is a large part of our mission and our goal to our children, to be represented not only in schools, but (also) on the school board.”
Conner said as school officials look at the budget, they may want to consider going back to the pre-2019 pay.
“I just really think some families would be willing to take it more into consideration,” she said.