Keep up the Good Work Tarryl!
Clark: We must reform public school funding
At a legislative hearing on Tuesday, educators, parents and citizens from across the state sent a message to state legislators and the Governor: Property taxes cannot fill gaps in state funding for schools.
“On election day, a third of the school districts in the state asked property taxpayers for money to run their schools,” said Senator Clark. “In most places, including St. Cloud, they were asking for funds that should have been coming from the state.”
“Our state constitution says that state government is responsible for providing a ‘secure and thorough and efficient system of public schools throughout the state,’ said Clark. “Instead, Governor Pawlenty has successfully instituted a system that puts local school districts in the business of begging for money from over-burdened property taxpayers. Schools shouldn’t be running campaigns and elections. They should be educating our children.”
Clark pointed out that two-thirds of referenda passed last November. “That shows strong support, given the fact that homeowners are being asked to vote themselves a property tax increase.
“Property taxes are riddled with inequities. They’re not based on the ability to pay, and are particularly rough on seniors and others who live on fixed and reduced incomes. When you add other factors, like a loss of state funding for local police and fire, ballooning mortgage payments for some and a declining state economy, it creates conditions that makes you marvel that 2/3rds of the referenda passed, and many, like St. Cloud, were very close.”
A bipartisan School Finance Reform Task Force is currently at work at the Capitol to design a better funding system. It plans to present its findings to the Legislature in January.
“As co-chair of the education finance bill conference committee that included the task force in this years funding bill, I hope that we can develop a bipartisan proposal that will restore state government’s constitutionally-mandated role as the primary financier of public education in Minnesota,” said Clark.
Clark asked to consider the options.
“On one hand, we have referenda proponents and opponents spending money - even hiring political consultants – to debate paying to operate schools using a manifestly unfair source of funding. In one district, opponents are even suing to throw out a state law that prohibits lying in election materials.”
“On the other hand, we can fund public education in a way that sets high standards for learning, prepares this generation to meet the challenges of the 21st century and is funded by fair means, based on the ability to pay.”