Saturday, June 11, 2011

School Board Members express grave concerns regarding K-12 Finance Bill

Over the last few weeks, I've received a number of explanatory communications from Republican representatives and senators trying to reassure me that the House-Senate education finance bill that Governor Dayton vetoed is, well, a great financial boon to school districts.   The fact the bill represented an effort to inflict significant reductions on districts with growing poverty and growing special education costs, in order to transfer funding to a select group of districts with lesser needs.    Across the State, school leadership is rebelling against this idea, that we can solve our education budget problems by moving money from some districts to others.    The fact is that over the last four years, school districts have struggled with the worst funding in a long long time, and this new proposal is significantly worse than the legislation passed in the last two bienniums.  

The most frustrating thing about all of this is that those of us who live with education budgets day in and day out know that the proposed House-Senate legislation is going to be devastating to school districts, and especially those districts with the most educational challenges.   At some point, we'd like to feel that our legislators would give us a bit more credit and recognize that when we say that a proposal is going to inflict significant pain, that it would give pause.  

Earlier this week, a group of school board members, most of them in the metro area joined together to express their grave concern at the approach that the House and Senate have taken.  I've copied the letter here.

The Honorable Pat Garofalo, Chair The Honorable Gen Olson, Chair
Honse Education Finance Committee Senate Education Committee

Dear Chairs Garofolo and Olson,
The forty two signers of this letter are elected by our communities to assure that our children have access to outstanding public education. We do this so that all of  Minnesota's children will have the capability to be successful, contributing members of  our state.
The K-12 Education funding bill that was vetoed hurt our school districts' ability to educate children. It is that simple.  Key elements of the bill including reductions in special education funding and eliminating integration aid effectively cut funding for all districts in the state. The  elimination of integration aid cuts millions in the next two years affecting three large school districts with uniquely needy student populations.
By cutting integration aid and reducing funding for special education and de-linking compensatory aid, the budget effectively transfers funding from those who need more attention to those children who are already succeeding.
This will make it much more difficult to intervene and educate children with special needs, children from families in poverty and children of color. will increase the achievement gap that the legislature aims to close .
As school board members, we ask you, the leadership of our state legislature, to find another way to maintain funding for the education of Minnesota's children. Balancing the budget on the backs of special education students, students in poverty and students of color will make it that much more difficult to close the achievement gap and that much more difficult to educate the people who will make Minnesota's future.
We would welcome an opportunity to talk with you in greater detail. We can be reached through John Hoffman, Vice Chair, Anoka Hennepin School Board.

Joel Albright Apple Valley-Eagen School Board
Carol Bomben Eden Prairie School Board
Mark Bomchill Robbinsdale School Board
Ann Bremer Westonka School Board
John Brodrick Saint Paul School Board
Kathy Buchholz Stillwater Area School Board
Anne Carroll Saint Paul School Board
Deborah Clark South Saint Paul School Board
Ann Counihan South SI. Paul School Board
Mary Jo Deters Mahtomedi School Board,
Shari Dion Roseville School Board
Kirby Ekstrom North Branch Area School Board
Rita Ericson South Saint Paul School Board
John Estall Eden Prairie School Board
Natalie Fedie Stillwater Area School Board
Natasha Fleischman Stillwater Area School Board
Marilynn Forsberg Spring Lake Park School Board
John Fossum Northfield School Board
Rebecca Gagnon Minneapolis School Board
Jim Gelbmann South Washington County School Board,
Cristina Gillette West Saint Paul School Board
Kitty Gogins Roseville School Board
Patsy Green Robbinsdale School Board
Peter Hamerlinck Saint Cloud School Board
Bruce Hentges Saint Cloud School Board
George R. Hoeppner Stillwater School Board
John Hoffman Anoka Hennepin School Board
Cheryl Jechorek Brooklyn Center School Board
Linda Johnson Robbinsdale School Board
Richard Mammen Minneapolis School Board
Paul Mandell Inver Grove Heights School Board
Jean O'Connell Saint Paul School Board
Bruce Richardson SI. Louis Park School Board
Thomas E. Ring Roseville School Board
Jeff Risberg Saint Paul School Board
Peyton Robb Edina School Board
Vicki Roy Intermediate District 917
Hussein Samatar Minneapolis School Board
Sherry Tyrrell Robbinsdale School Board
Dick Tirk Eastern Carver County School Board
Tom Walsh Robbinsdale School Board
Melissa Halvorson Wiklund Bloomington School Board

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