Education Minnesota: Legislature missed opportunities to repay schools, address achievement gapThe 2012 Legislature showed that Minnesotans will have a clear choice in November between leaders who truly value public education and those who view our classrooms as places for political games.
By: Tom Dooher, Education Minnesota president
The 2012 Legislature showed that Minnesotans will have a clear choice in November between leaders who truly value public education and those who view our classrooms as places for political games.
The Republican majority introduced more than 20 bills targeting public education and educators this year. None of them responsibly addressed the most pressing needs of our students, including repaying the state’s $2 billion IOU to its schools, closing the achievement gap and developing a sustainable funding system for the future.
Instead, we saw bills that would raise the health insurance costs for educators and their districts, put corporate tax breaks ahead of repaying the debt to our schools and impose new regulations for teacher layoffs.
After five months of debate, none of those bad bills became bad laws. And the union-busting right-to-work constitutional amendment won’t be on the November ballot, thanks in part to a bi-partisan recognition that it was an attack on unions and the middle class.
Credit also goes to our 70,000 members. Thousands wrote and called their legislators. More than 400 educators came to the Capitol personally, including more than 100 just to protest the right-to-work amendment.
Our special thanks go to Gov. Mark Dayton, who said in February that education policy shouldn’t be a political ploy. He meant it.
On bill after bill, he raised his hand for schools, and that hand was often holding a veto pen. The governor blocked efforts to restrict educators’ access to a more affordable state-run insurance pool, to limit collective bargaining and to strip away seniority protections from layoffs, to name a few.
We could dwell on the misplaced priorities and missed opportunities of the 2012 session, but now it’s time to look ahead. We’ve already begun building a new coalition of educators, neighbors and lawmakers who will develop the policies for 2013 that will give Minnesotans what they deserve – the best public schools in the nation.”
Tom Dooher is president of Education Minnesota, the state's teachers union.