Column: Regardless of political party, Minnesotans must demand commitment to educationAny way you look at it, 2013 has been a great year for our schools. Just consider what the Legislature accomplished this year.
By: Erik Simonson, For the Budgeteer News
Any way you look at it, 2013 has been a great year for our schools. Just consider what the Legislature accomplished this year.
We pledged to reverse the lack of interest in our children’s classrooms shown by previous legislatures by creating a world-class education system. We wanted to create a blueprint for how to close the achievement gap, raise graduation rates and improve students’ career and college readiness.
How did we do this? By investing in what works. We fully funded all-day kindergarten and invested $40 million in early learning childhood scholarships, both proven tools to improve test scores, close the achievement gap and prepare students for future academic success.
We accelerate the payback of the $2.4 billion owed to our schools. Our plan will accelerate paying back our schools by 2014.
We increased the basic funding formula for K-12 schools by 3 percent over the biennium, an increase of over $234 million, or $156 per pupil. That means an additional $5.3 million for the children in the Duluth School District.
And we enhanced the equity formula by guaranteeing all districts at least $300 equity and referendum revenue per student, a new Student Achievement Levy, and raising and indexing operating referendum levy equalization factors to reduce property taxes.
The DFL budget also contains a new strategy to close the revenue equity gap and reduce property taxes.
This is vitally important. Forget for a moment the fact that property taxes had skyrocketed 86 percent in the last decade — now we are providing $400 million in property tax relief to Minnesota homeowners and renters.
Over the same period of time, the disparity in revenue between high property tax revenue districts and low property tax revenue districts has grown by 66 percent, forcing many districts to rely more heavily on local property tax levies.
The quality of children’s education should never be dependent on the values of their parents’ homes. Minnesotans must demand that the kind of commitment we made to our kids’ schools is not an aberration. It must be a session-to-session commitment, regardless of which party controls the legislature or who sits in the governor’s chair.
Erik Simonson (DFL) is the Minnesota state representative for District 7B.