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Reality Check: Who’s To Blame Over Education Funding?

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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ST. PAUL (WCCO) — It’s only the first day of school, and Minnesota classrooms are already struggling for money.

Democratic leaders in the Minnesota House are blaming last year’s Republican governor, Tim Pawlenty.

“These Republican shifts are stealing our children’s futures right out of their hands,” said DFL Minority Leader Paul Thissen, at a State Capitol press conference.

DFLers say Pawlenty, who left office at the end of 2010, and current Republican leaders are responsible for at least $2.2 billion in education funding shifts to balance the budget for the 2011 school year.

“This record increase in the school shift is death by a thousand paper cuts,” said DFL Rep. Mindy Greiling, the DFL Lead on the House E-12 Education Finance Committee. “Gov. Pawlenty and Legislative Republicans’ insistence on protecting millionaires has meant that our schools have more kids, more demands and yet fewer resources.”

This is not just an exaggeration: it is highly MISLEADING.

A school funding shift may have started under GOP Gov. Pawlenty and a DFL-dominated legislature in 2010, but it continued with DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and a GOP-dominated legislature (pages 111, 112) in 2011.

In fact, Dayton also proposed it in his budget, and signed a bill enacting it into law.

What’s TRUE is that Republicans and the DFL Gov. Dayton agreed to borrow $2.2 billion from Minnesota schools to help balance the budget, with no timetable on paying it back.

And that’s NOT THE WHOLE STORY.

Not getting the aid they expected puts Minnesota schools in a cash-flow crunch, like the Montevideo school district.

Schools are forced to dip into budget reserves, or borrow money to make ends meet.

To help defray those costs, schools will get $50 more per student.

Here’s what you NEED TO KNOW:

Whoever is to blame, if that’s the right word, classrooms are struggling.

One-hundred and thirty-three of Minnesota’s 325 districts are considering tax hike referendums to help make up the difference.

That’s the largest number in a decade.

Reality Check Links:
Minnesota School Finance
Department Of Education
MonteNews Article
Education Omnibus Bill
Minnesota School Boards Association

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