Caledonia residents voted 2,481 to 2,372 in April to approve an advisory referendum to start pursuing an independent school district. Several village board members voiced opposition to paying for the study because they felt the state law needed to change first, but state lawmakers have said they want a feasibility study done before they’ll change the law.
With the feasibility study prohibiting the process from moving forward, Citizens for a Caledonia School District started the account Wednesday. By Thursday morning, the FundRazr account had $950.
Ed Willing, a Caledonia village trustee and member of the Citizens for A Caledonia School District, said the group plans to raise the $30,000 to pay for the study themselves. Once they reach $1,000, the group can make a down payment on the feasibility study, which they plan to have Wisconsin Taxpayer Alliance do to outline the steps and costs Caledonia would have to form its own school district.
“The idea of this mostly came from other people,” Willing said. “Within the first 24 hours after the vote we were all in a state of emotional –oh my God I can’t believe this happened…. but then all of a sudden there was this swell of support for this fundraiser… let’s do this.”
Willing said that a group of confidential donors have pledged to match donations once certain thresholds are met on their way to the $30,000 benchmark.
But even if the group raises the money, they’ll need to convince enough state lawmakers to change the law to pull out of Racine Unified.
As it stands now, the Racine Unified School District would need to give its blessing to Caledonia to separate from the district. Citizens for a Caledonia School District also wants state Legislators to change the law to allow communities to separate from unified school districts if they choose to through a referendum.
Rep. Tom Weatherston (R-Caledonia) told village board members Monday night at a meeting that he’s willing to write a bill that would seek to change the allow to allow communities that want their own school districts to have them, but he thought writing it would be “dead on the water.”
Village president Bob Bradley, who voted against the study, said he was happy that the group was taking on the fundraising effort. But he’s concerned that the scope of the study may not be comprehensive enough. He’d like to see all three communities — Caledonia, Mount Pleasant, and Sturtevant — go in on a study together since Sturtevant passed a referendum to form its own school district. Mount Pleasant village board members have also indicated that they would be open to doing a feasibility study, but they did not have a referendum.
“This is not over by any means, there is going to be something that is going to happen out of this,” Bradley said. “But this group is pushing for Caledonia only and my question is, if Sturtevant and Mount Pleasant want to do the same thing… where are you?”