Education funding has been put on the front burner this week in St. Paul after Gov. Mark Dayton requested Lawmakers to provide 138-million dollars in emergency funding for school districts dealing with budget deficits.
The request comes late in the session, but House Representative Clark Johnson (D-North Mankato) says school districts are reporting they will have to layoff workers because they are short on funds.
“I was totally floored when the Republicans said, well that’s a local issue, the states not going to deal with it,” said Johnson. “Well that’s easy for someone to say in a high value district, but in rural schools where we don’t have high property tax values, if it’s a local issue they’re not going to be able to address it.”
Another key problem is funding for special education, an area where the Mankato District is 5.9-million dollars short a year and the Saint Peter School District has a shortfall of nearly 1.9-million dollars. Those districts and others tap into their general fund to make up the deficits.
“You’d be surprised when I knock on doors how many of my neighbors tell me special education needs to be a priority. We’ve put that off too long as well. So again, in a time of surplus, we’re not funding special education and it’s having an impact on schools, laying off teachers and this is widespread throughout the state.”
The State says more than 26 school districts around the Twin Cities and 33 districts in rural Minnesota are struggling with budget deficits.
As a retired educator, Johnson says the issue is also happening at colleges, resulting in extra pressure on tuition.
“I’m always floored by the fact that we cannot really provide the investment needed in education. Because it seems so basic to what we’re trying to do. It’s the foundation upon which opportunity is created for individuals, but also opportunity for the entire state. It really creates a stronger state economy.”
Dayton’s proposal increases school resources by 2-percent, amounting to an additional 126-dollars for every student in Minnesota.