Minnesota Focus: Education Underfunding is a Policy, Not a Reaction
Minnesota schools will see a $167 million bump from the federal government’s EduJobs stimulus program. The money is meant to stimulate the economy by keeping teachers in the classroom and earning a paycheck rather than collecting unemployment.
It’s important to remember that while the EduJobs cash is an economic stimulus program, Minnesota’s problems with school funding are not the result of the current recession. For eight years, Minnesota’s politicians have made a conscious decision to underfund education.
Since 2003, schools have seen a 14 percent inflation-adjusted drop in state aid for education. Also, the state is delaying $1.9 billion of the money it owes schools in an accounting gimmick to balance the budget.
This underfunding is not the result of hard times or flagging state revenue. The underfunding is the result of a “no new taxes” strategy that aims to starve government services. The policy has worked wonders: School districts are now holding classes only four days each week to save money; class sizes are ballooning past the point of teacher effectiveness; preschool programs, classes for gifted and talented students, extracurriculars, classes in art, world languages, industrial arts and others are all being cut .
You can see how much each school district is receiving by going to the Minnesota Department of Education’s homepage and clicking on the “View the Estimated Allocations Spreadsheet” link.
MinnPost reports that, since school is ready to start and hiring decisions have already been made, many districts will put away some of the EduJobs money and spend it next year. They understand that with a nearly$7 billion state deficit, schools are not likely to see their $1.9 billion in deferred payments. They will also be lucky if their budget isn’t cut. The EduJobs money could mean the difference between kindergarten classes with 30 students or those with “only” 25.
The state has no inclination of adequately funding education. The EduJobs money is welcome and is certainly a stimulus of sorts, but what Minnesota really needs are leaders in St. Paul who can provide our educators with the tools they need to do their jobs. Until that happens, we will consistently be sailing against the wind.
This is one of my top problems about Republicans in particular and conservatives in general, whether it is in NYC, Minnesota or anywhere: education is one of the first things they cut. Education has been shown (even by conservative think tanks) to be one of the number one factors that can cut drug use, poverty and crime, yet it is one of the most undervalued things in our society. Democrats have a mixed record on education funding, but Republicans ALWAYS under-fund education while also increasing the cost of education by requiring excessive testing which gets contracted to private companies that usually are buddies and donors of the same Republicans who send them business. It is a corrupt, costly and damaging policy that HURTS AMERICA. We are losing our competitive edge thanks to Republican underfunding of education. EduJobs is a good, perhaps excellent, band aid that Democrats have put through over Republican obstruction. But in Minnesota, NYC and across the country we need better policies where education gets the funding it needs. In the long run this even saves us money by reducing crime, drug use and poverty. It makes sense in all possible ways...so why do Republicans hate education so much?