GOP Lawmakers Take Aim At Minnesota School Levies

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — About a third of Minnesota school districts are planning to ask voters to approve local levies this fall, and now one prominent Republican lawmaker says he plans an unprecedented campaign against some school leaders who plead poverty.

While state lawmakers traditionally stay out of local levy decisions, Minnesota Public Radio News reports ( the chairman of the House Finance Committee, Rep. Patrick Garofalo, R-Farmington, said it’s time to speak out.

He is reminding district leaders that they just received a boost in state funding, including another $50 per pupil. “When you’re making these additional expenditures at the statewide level, the property tax is not to be used to go back for a second bite of the apple,” Garofalo said.

Garofalo said he plans to be very vocal about districts he says are abusing the process when it comes to levy votes, and he expects other Republican lawmakers to join him.

“The important thing is that we have accountability in dollars,” he said. “Unfortunately, we have some school boards that are using people’s generosity to engage in the fleecing of taxpayers, and that’s just not acceptable.”

He said he hopes that some school leaders will cancel their referendum plans.

Garofalo is not alone in his concerns. State Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, recently sent a newsletter to his constituents asking them to urge school officials to drop their proposed levy referendums.

The latest information from the Minnesota School Boards Association shows about one in three Minnesota districts plan levy elections in November. A large share of those would renew expiring levies. In those cases, taxes would not increase.

Scott Croonquist, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan School Districts, said voters need to understand the distinction. Croonquist said voters and legislators should also understand that districts are not seeking tax increases based solely on the outcome of one legislative session.

“The facts are very clear that education funding has not kept pace with inflation in Minnesota over the last decade,” Croonquist said. “Consequently, school districts have been trimming and cutting substantially during that time frame. And many of them have now reached a point where there’s just no more fat left to cut.”

Croonquist said the financial situation of each district is unique. He called the broad accusations from Garofalo as “unfortunate and unfair.”

A key House Democrat, state Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, offered a harsher criticism of Garofalo.

“Shame on him for blurring the picture and making it harder for schools to get the money they need for their own students,” said Greiling, the lead minority member of the House Education Finance Committee.

Greiling said she always offered support for school referendums when asked. She also said the chairman was wrong to challenge the integrity of local school leaders — an approach she said would be unprecedented.

“Having been a school board member myself one time, I know that districts are very slow to the table and hesitant to ask for more property tax increases,” Greiling said. “They know, and the superintendents know, that that isn’t popular. So when they ask for money, they really need it.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • what a dork

    A boost in funding? The state is withholding education funds for the second year in a row. Levies are indeed the decision of a community and his decision to campaign against them indicates he has a vendetta against education. School districts will be forced to lean out and get their priorities straight without this schmuck’s interference. Everyone loves to use the schools as a scapegoat. They make a wonderful whipping post for politicians.

    • waste

      What an idiotic response,

      “indicates he has a vendetta against education”

      How about looking at one of the highest costs for schools, Retired Teacher Benefits.

      These teachers are receiving 75% of their salary, guaranteed. They are also receiving medical.

      Schools boards are caught between a bullying union and the property tax payer.

      The imbalance between the private sector and what the teachers receive has to be address.

      And, if you are sooooo concerned with performance of students, then let’s put something in place to get rid of underperforming, bloated, tenured teachers and allow the hard working teachers to take their place.

      “What a Dork” is a classic response from a Union Thug.

      Vote down referendums until the school board, state, and unions address this issue.

      • rteach

        As a retired teacher I sure wish I was receiving 75% of my salary. I am not taking home even a portion of that. I am also paying my entire medical premiums along with Medicare. Where in the name of heavens are you getting your information?

        • jan

          As a retired bartender I am paying my entire medical premiums too and receive a pension of sixty five dollars a month and I’m tired of my taxes going up because of referendums.

          • Dave's Not Here

            There is no such thing as a retired bartender.

          • yes!

            you must have been one helluva cool bartender!

      • tom

        You talk a lot. Too bad little of what you say is factual.

      • Well By Golly

        Let’s stick it to the teachers then!! It’s their tough luck they got sweet retirement benefits as part of their jobs.

        And who cares there’s a contract here. We’ll just throw it out and cut the benefits to the bone. If they don’t like it, there’s plenty of part-time jobs at WalMart!!

        Too bed me and ‘waste’ don’t have the same benefits with our jobs, but hey, if anyone should pay, it’s them teachers!!

        • waste

          If you work in the private sector, and you rely on a 401k, you have taken a huge loss due to a government housing stimulus.

          However, if you are a public worker, you are living high off the hog.
          Tell me where I am wrong as I go to my part time job to pay my bills?
          Tell me why I have to pay more property taxes for union thugs to buy there $2000 suits?

          If the schools are broke due to bad contracts, then the contracts are bankrupt.
          That is not my fault.

          • huh?

            “…you have taken a huge loss due to a government housing stimulus.”

            “…union thugs to buy there $2000 suits?”

            I too, am content to remain factually unaware. It’s easier that way, to not have to think too hard.

      • G Dog


        Yes you are.

  • Dale Gribble

    Schools receive TOO MUCH money. School funding should be cut in half. I’m sick o my tax dollars going to be wasted by schools.

    • Yessir!!

      I don’t have kids either, but if I did, I’d sure want ’em to get a second-class education. They don’t need to know all that stuff anyway.

    • Jim

      If you went to public school yourself, then the tax dollars you pay now are repayments of services you’ve already received. Why do Republicans not want to pay what they owe?

      • Private School?

        I thought paying for schools was my means of paying for my kids (or future kids)? Or for the value that’s gained in the society as a whole from a competent workforce? No? The property taxes I pay to School District A today are repayment to School District B I attended (in a different state, mind you) as a kid? Interesting theory Jim. I like how you twist it into Dale “owing” someone something, and then extrapolate that to all members of the GOP. It does yield an interesting question …. what if Dale went to a private school as a kid? Then what is he paying for today?

        • Jim

          People have no say in what their tax money is used for. But you already knew that. My point is many people who went to public school as children now whine about paying taxes that in part go to schools. Public school is not free for me or you or anyone, and as adults we pay for it. That’s not a theory. If Dale went to public school as a child, then he does indeed have a responsibility to pay society back for his education.

          I would argue that if you went to private school, then you should be exempt from paying taxes for public schools. I would also argue that since I’m on record as being against the war in Iraq from the beginning, that my tax money should not be used to make bombs for that effort, but of course that’s not going to happen. An interesting question indeed.

          • Some Agreement

            “Public school is not free for me or you or anyone, and as adults we pay for it.” Agreed, completely. Nothing is free.

            “If Dale went to public school as a child, then he does indeed have a responsibility to pay society back for his education.” I reject that notion, 100%. Dale does not have to “pay back” anything for which someone else (or some other group of people) voluntarily chose to give him. You might argue he should *feel* some sense of *moral* responsibility. But I disagree that he owes anything to the world.

            “I would argue that if you went to private school, then you should be exempt from paying taxes for public schools.” Wouldn’t that be nice! Or if you don’t have kids, you don’t pay for public schools. Or if you don’t support the war, like you said, your $ doesn’t fund it. I think it would be a neat little experiment to allow citizens to allocate their tax dollars to each section of government, and then to force those units to live within the budgets allocated by the people.

            • Jim

              I get what you’re saying. But we didn’t ask Dale if he wanted roads built in his neighborhood either. Society decided that roads were important and that all citizens should help pay for them, even if they don’t drive. I couldn’t get out of paying for roads even if I wrote a letter to the government explaining that I don’t own a car, and Dale can’t get out of paying for schools just because he might think education is stupid. (Or because he went to private school.)

              Part of the price of a civilized society is compromise. I’m unhappy that my tax money goes to building bombs, you are unhappy your money goes to schools, some people are unhappy about this, others about that.

  • Perish The Thought!!!

    These are local levies, voted on by the people whose kids go to those schools. If you don’t like it, vote against it.

    • Local Kid

      The problem is that the district incessantly has levy votes EVERY election cycle. These districts spend thousands of my tax dollars each cycle just to campaign for more money. I have two elementary school kids and live in the Robbinsdale school district. The number if levy votes are getting ridiculous. When it is voted down, it is voted down. End of discussion. I fully support some type of limit placed on the districts so they cannot continually spend our children’s resources to ask for money every two years. To argue against a common sense approach like this shows a lot of ignorance.

      • Thomas

        The reason the schools have to keep asking for levies every election cycle is because the need for the students is still there. School boards don’t just ask for money because they want to, they have a real need for the money to maintain current education levels. If they get funding cuts from the state, in order to maintain current levels, it eventually falls on the taxpayers of the school district. And if the taxpayers say ‘No’, then things get cut, teachers, curriculums, and the only thing that increases is students per classroom. With two children in elementary school, I would certainly want to maintain, if not improve, education so that my children would directly benefit from the levy. You have a basic choice…maintain current education levels, or force the school board to make more drastic cuts. And last but not least, if you still have issues with tax levies, you can move out of the district, or the state.

        • I disagree

          The real problem isn’t money, it’s accountability. Funding isn’t the direct driver of “education levels”. You can dump as much money in as you’d like, but until students are held accountable for their work (or lack thereof), parents are held accountable for their students, and teachers are held accountable for their performance your “education level” isn’t going to budge. Our education system today is far too complacent with mediocrity and making excuses for bad behavior.

      • Tired of Taxes

        I live in a district that had a referendum vote every 6 months for a new school to replace one that was only 30 years old. It got voted down for 3 years and finally passed because it was sent to a vote every 6 months which should not be allowed. It should only be allowed every 2 years.

        • Dave's Not Here

          Only 30 years old? LOL

          Schools SHOULD be replaced or updated more frequently than twice per century, sir. Just a point that had to be made there…

          • Why

            Why? Do you replace your house more frequently than twice per century?

            • llp

              No but I hope you work on it

              • Why

                I work on things that are broken. But I don’t go spending money redoing the place “just because it’s old! Eeww!!”

                • Dave's Not Here

                  The fact that you think “just because it’s old! Eeww!!” is the reason is very telling in this situation. Now at least, I don’t have to waste time reading your comments hoping for signs of intelligence.

      • It's gonna cost me

        all of maybe $1.50 on my total taxes for this year. Way too much if you ask me, and I’m no tightwad either!

        That and if my kids don’t learn nothing neither, it’s their tough luck.

    • jan

      I do vote against it but there are too many voters who don’t pay property taxes at all that vote for it. It should be funded by something other than property taxes so that everybody pays, not just homeowners

  • jimmy

    Yep Republicans gave an increase then borrowed it back and more to balance the state budget.

  • Sam i am

    They shound’t get another dime until scores go up. Minnesota test scores have fallen over the past couple of years.

    I say audit where all the money goes now before giving 1 more cent.

    • richard

      This is up to individual districts. The people in those districts will vote and determine to grant the levies or not. Mr. garofalo, if your district proposes a levy, then you can vote against it if you don’t feel it’s justified. That’s how a democracy works. Otherwise, you and your repub coharts should mind your own business.

      • Local Kid

        Again, the problem is that many districts have levy votes EVERY 2 years spending thousands of our tax dollars just to have it voted down. There needs to be some type of limit placed on the districts so they cannot continually spend our children’s resources to ask for money every two years.

  • llp

    I guess they want people just like they DUMB

    • Rico Suave

      Nice sentence structure. You must have gone to public schools. Yeah, let’s keep throwing more cash at that giant failure.

      • llp

        No Rico i just missed the key board because I couldn’t help laughing over the DUMB comments on here. Comment sections are just a news papers way of saying WE SUCK at the news. Who cares what you hacks have to say just give me the news. Opinons should be in the opinio section because I need more paper to clean up the dog s*** in my yard.

      • Jim

        Only greedy Republicans think public schools are a failure. If it were up to them, we’d all be “educated” in our living rooms, and we’d be a third-world country in no time. No thanks.

        • chuck in st paul

          consider your statement… in point of fact home schooled children do WAY better than public school children so getting educated in your living room is actually better not worse

          also consider that as our children go higher up the education ladder the worse they do against children of other countries and that’s a fact

          • Otto

            Every home schooled child does better? That’s a very broad statement to make. You get what you pay for in home schooling, just like public education. I’ve met more than a few home schoolers who severely lack a well rounded education. I would like to see your references, chuck, before I will believe such an outlandish statement

            • Jim

              Parents today who are motivated to teach their children at home mostly do a good job. But to de-fund the public school system, as many “conservatives” would like to do, would be disaster for this country as every child would rely on their parents for education. Some parents work two jobs and don’t have time to teach. Some parents don’t care. Others are incapable of teaching kids much beyond the basics. Republicans would turn this country into a place where only the richest get a good education.

              • Dale Gribble

                Ever meet a liberal who attended a parochial school? We can destroy the liberals in two generations simply by doing away with public education. The wealthy will continue to use private schools and if the middle class wants to remain that way, they’ll spend the money to send their kids to a parochial school where they can learn White Christian values and culture. The poor, frankly, don’t matter.

              • Dale Gribble

                Which is the way it should be. The typical guy only needs to be able to read and write. Why should we waste money on educating a people who don’t appreciate or deserve it. The rich need the education to be able to rule us effectively. My tax dollars shouldn’t be going to pay for Joe the Plumber’s kids to learn a bunch of highbrow nonsense that they won’t use, anyway.

                • Jim

                  “The rich need the education to be able to rule us effectively. My tax dollars shouldn’t be going to pay for Joe the Plumber’s kids to learn a bunch of highbrow nonsense that they won’t use, anyway.”

                  I have to assume you’re not being serious with that garbage. The fact is that most kids don’t appreciate their public education because THEY’RE KIDS and they don’t know any better. That’s why they need an education. Other countries are doing everything they can to improve education for their children, but some people here seem content to turn the US into an uneducated third-world backwater so they can have a slightly lower tax bill each year.

          • joe

            Uh — Who are you comparing? If you compare their top 5% with our top 5%, our students do better.

          • up

            The majority of people were educated in public schools. You clearly believe these people to be idiots, but you want these same people to educate the next generation in their home. Statement considered, yours is much more ignorant.

  • Brent

    I thought the Tea Partiers wanted less government. Now here they are interfering with local issues. Sounds like they only mean less government if there’s something in it for them.

    • chuck in st paul

      why do you conflate the Tea Party movement with the GOP? the connection is tenuous at best. In point of fact we want government to go back to what it was meant to be – limited in scope and size (and thus in cost).

      Having said that, I agree that the State Legislature should butt out of local elections and out of school funding altogether.

      • llp

        Because they can’t get electd without them.

      • Jim

        The Tea Party and the GOP are synonymous. Everyone knows that.

  • Rico Suave

    “Take aim” at the levies????? I thought liberals wanted us all to stop with the violent rhetoric. Actually I couldn’t care less. Let me be the one to “pull the trigger” and “slash’ the school budgets. Cheers.

    • SnowFire

      Liberal “Take aim”, conservative “in the cross hairs” – grasping are we

      • Rico Suave

        I’d love to “eviscerate”, “disembowel”, “cut”, “gut”, and “kill” any and all increases in spending of any kind. Then I’d drive a stake through its heart and hang it from a tree. Finally I’d put what’s left of it in my cross hairs and shoot it deader than disco.

        • Jim

          What’s funny is that I think you actually think this kind of stuff bothers liberals. But it doesn’t. No one cares. Take aim at whatever you’d like. Enjoy yourself.

  • Facts

    The $50 increase was put in to help pay the interest on the loans that districts are having to take out because of the funding shift. Definitely a vendetta against public education.

    • Betty

      Not all school districts borrowed money because of the funding shift. Our local adminsistration cut wasteful spending and overlapping services between schools within the same district. No new funding was required or needed. Its a lot easier to find ways to cut when you are limited on your funding.

      • David J. Conklin

        Any idiot can cut–just ask “Chain Saw” Al.

  • smb

    If he wants to go out and campaign against public schools then more power to him. Let the voters know exactly where his priorities and loyalties lie.

  • Just Wait

    Our district has made many cuts as well, but come November, we will have no choice but to borrow. I would bet that your district will be their shortly as well.

  • joe

    I work in the schools and I also believe we waste way to much of the taxes payers money. Vote no to any Levies.

  • Scott

    This seems so counter-intuitive to the ethos of non-intervention and small government. The school levy process, which I find intrinsically flawed like much of the public school system, is the very essence of citizens choosing to shape their community. If the people of, say, Eden Prairie have the capability and the willingness to create a massive sports complex who are the legislators in St. Paul to tell them no?

    • Reasonable

      Because small government is the opposite of what any legislator wants. While the rhetoric is one of “get govt out of the way” the actual examples of reality is completely different than that.

      But hey, let’s make sure we have an unedudcated and unhealthy population. That’ll certainly be effective in creating a new and better economy!

  • dee

    Save money and do not ask home owners for more …No busing, no paying for taxi cabs, no interpreters, if you do not know English, stay home until you do, no Spanish Immersion schools, and parents or guardians of school age children should have to pay more for keeping their school functioning. These are tough times and every single person has to contribute, not just home owners. What about a renters fee for their children attending school?

    • Dave's Not Here

      No Spanish Immersion schools?

      Don’t put your kid in one if you don’t want him to be bilingual. Those schools have a proven track record, and the kids are fluent in 2 languages before High School.

      You don’t have a clue what you’re talking about, dee.

      More fees, eh? I’m sure that will go over great.

      • dee

        Spanish language can be taught in an American English speaking school as are other languages. We do not need to fund a whole school for Spanish. Times are tough, America and MN are broke. Dave, you don’t have a clue.

    • SnowFire

      When you rent the owner is the property tax payer so indirectly they do pay.

  • Ron

    Republicans,and Teapartyers suck, and they always WILL!

    • Rico Suave

      Is that your argument? You must have president of the North High Debate club.

      • llp

        You just proved his argument.

        • MARK

          “Republicans,and Teapartyers suck, and they always WILL!”

          Or in other words:

          “Is that your argument? You must have president of the North High Debate club.”

  • G Dog

    So many of these posts prove that the public is ignorant of school issues, but if they keep repeating the same inane lies, more people will join them.

    Many of you are evidence of not paying attention. Kind of like what you did in school.

  • lou

    Has our education system improved by 100%?

    If money is so tied to education, then the test scores should be going up by the percentage of education expense.

    However, this is not the case. Throwing more money at schools is not the solution. The dollars are not magic.

    If you pass a referendum and think, hey, the kids in my town are going to be smarter, you are kidding yourself. You are just putting more money into the pockets of the teachers union.

    If you pass a referendum and think, hey, the kids in my town are going to be smarter, you are kidding yourself. You are just putting more money into the pockets of the teachers union.

    • Rico Suave

      Yeah, Lou you’re right. Liberals always cry for more money but never produce results. The dollars aren’t magic. They start with the best of intentions and never perform as promised (stimulus anyone?). They are beyond learning. Clueless and proud of it.

  • WB

    I remember when Minnesota had one of the best public school systems in the country. Soon we will be competing with states like Mississippi. Pretty sad really…

    • Dave's Not Here


      How dramatic.

      Totally false, but funny anyway.

  • justaxnspend

    Go team GOP!! I love you guys!!

  • leroy

    Do you have an iPad????

    Southern Minnesota principals just received free iPads. Did they receive training? not yet, but be sure that that will be paid for.

    Now if our students are suffering so badly, then why did the state waste $800 for a toy for principles?

    How do I know this? because I work in the private sector and my coworker took her husbands on a trip with us for a week so she could play with it.

    Nice huh…

    • Educator

      Yes, I have an iPad and I use it everyday. You didn’t ask this question, however — yes, I am an educator.

      I purchased my iPad on my own. I use it in my classroom to find books to read with students, check emails with colleagues when I am not at school, download apps for students to use when studying, and research the latest advances in my field. Of course, there are many more uses and I can visit my local Apple store for free training as I need it. Use of technology is very motivating and engaging for students. Students today need to learn how to function in today’s society, not a society of 50 years ago.

      We have some iPads in my district that are district owned. These iPads were purchased using grant dollars. Perhaps the iPads you refer to were also purchased in this way. If so, then they did not cost the school district or the state any money. Rather, grants are awarded by foundations based upon the work and efforts of educators who would like their students and colleagues to have access to the latest technology or other educational resources in order to improve the quality of education for all students.

      Use of new technologies can also lead districts to research ways to reduce expenses. For example, if you purchase e versions of textbooks, the cost per “book” is greatly reduced. And, when that book becomes outdated, the software is updated much more quickly and less expensively than through traditional publishing methods. The cost of an iPad is much less than the cost of a computer.

      Yes, education is expensive, but the alternative is an uneducated society. In my opinion, an uneducated populace is too great an expense for us to bear.

      P.S. — the word “principles” is misspelled — I think you mean “principals.” Of course, an iPad would have caught that typo for you. :-)

    • jan

      how many husbands has your coworker got?

  • G Dog

    First, starve a person. Then, publicly announce that nobody should feed that person.

    That’s what the GOP has done to public education.

    • Monty

      To use your analagy, lets spends tons of money for tood for the starving without knowing anything about that person’s food alergies or religious requirements. Free for for starving children is great untiil you find it is all peanut butter, shell fish, and pork.

      After a certain point, spending more money does not increase student performance in the current system. For example, local Catholic schools spend less per pupil, and have better results.

      You need due diligence to spend the money correctly. But I have yet to find an administrator that has had enough money, or a union that has not fought tooth and nail to say anybody who opposes them is against education out most precious resource.

      GOP proposals to have performance pay and accountablility would likely increase education costs in the long run. The significant difference, that extra money is earned due to the higher performance of the students. The money spent means better output which benefits all. That is money well spent, not throwing more money on the already failed system.

      • Dave's Not Here

        “For example, local Catholic schools spend less per pupil, and have better results.”


        False. The catholic schools are not showing better results than any other schools. It’s obvious you’re catholic and biased. ZZZZZZZZZZZZ

      • SnowFire

        support your own religious requirements – and if you can’t go to your religious leaders for what you need – don’t expect the government to spend tax dollars on irrational religious beliefs.
        Of course we need accountability and efficiency regarding public education but the GOP does not believe in regulation or increasing government so don’t say this is a GOP plan.

  • Pat

    See what happens when you over feed a union, the first second you say that the expenses should be looked at before blindly giving them more money, you are labeled.

    Labeling is the Union tactic of choice….

    How much money does the union recieve? Take that money and put it into education for our children.


  • SnowFire

    Garofalo is a religious nut and if his kids are not attending private schools now he surely would send them if he could afford it. If the schools need money they just keep asking for it until they wear you down and get it on a ballot that is part of an election that will get it passed. Renter’s do pay in on these moneys as the space they rent the property owner pays property taxes. Public school administration and public school facilities has a lot of fat that never gets trimmed out and it seems there is no process for doing this.

  • Kevin

    Drove my chevy to the levy…….who will pay for all the special educational needs? You know emmersion Mexican? Intro to Somali? Hmong 101? Ebonics 210? Come on stable home owners! Stand up in your community and pay for those who wont…I mean who cant…..we all to need to be a part of our “community”..I mean their communities….the Somali community loves you and wants you to keep working and pay tor them……

  • Ron

    Stay away from minnesota you idiots, this is not Wtsconsin!

    • Dave's Not Here

      It’s reading stories like this that make me happy that I jumped the border to Wisconsin. And I’m never going back. Good riddance, mud ducks!

blog comments powered by Disqus
Thursday Night Football

Listen Live