To the Editor:
Letters over the last couple weeks asked for real solutions to the education funding problems our state has faced for many, many years. One letter equated solutions put forth by Rep. Bob Barrett and Sen. Nienow with “throwing a pail of water on a burning house”.
Turning a $6.2 billion state budget deficit into a $1.2 billion budget surplus, in one year, is hardly “throwing a pail of water on a burning house.” In fact this surplus and future surpluses are the key to solving the funding equity problems our schools currently face that were the subject of the most recent letters.
So let’s get real for a second. Rep. Barrett increased per pupil funding by $50 per student. This is the first time in over four years per pupil funding has been increased.
Rep. Barrett repealed a state mandate that forced school districts to use 2 percent of their entire school budget for staff development. This temporary repeal (Dayton would not allow for a permanent repeal) allowed $400,000 or more to be used to retain 6-8 teachers per school district instead of seeing these teachers be fired.
The $1.2 billion surplus allowed for budget reserves to be filled, in full, in addition to making a $300 million dollar down payment on the education shift. Our state representative, Bob Barrett and our state senator, Sean Nienow, co-authored a bill that would have completely paid off the extra shift from the last legislative session while keeping these state reserves at their highest level in over four years.
The only shift left to pay off would have been the DFL produced shift from the 2010. Governor Dayton vetoed this bill saying that using cash to pay off debt is irresponsible. Amazing!
Rep. Barrett co-authored a bill that would allow Racino in Minnesota using these tax receipts to pay off the education shift. Rep. Barrett and Sen. Nienow also authored a bill that pay down the education shift by using money (1 percent) from other state departments. The letter writer from last week distorted this issue by ignoring how more than one idea needs to be implemented to eliminate the ½ percent interest rate and ½ percent in loan fees schools currently pay to borrow this shifted money from banks.
Rep. Barrett and Sen. Nienow also authored a bill (HF2540) that no recent Chisago County state representative or state senator has previously authored which puts an actual plan in place to help solve this problem.
As a letter writer said, we currently spend $14 billion on K-12 education. Given this amount of money available, I think we can find $30 million to make K-12 funding in our state more equitable.
Achieving funding equity will take more than one solution and our reps are currently working on many solutions. Let’s not distort these real solutions with political spin.