October 2, 2006

/ 2 October 2006 / Parents United
October 2, 2006

October 2, 2006 Update — From Mary Cecconi, Executive Director


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 Important Dates

November 7, 2006
Election Day

November 15, 2006
Educating Rural Minnesota’s Children

A Few Things to Check Out . . .

  1. New Rural Minnesota Journal discusses K-12 education in Greater Minnesota.
  2. Stay up-to-date with Parents United! Bookmark our News & Events Desktop to stay current on important education news and events. Our skillful web person, Jennifer Armstrong, updates this page regularly and it’s chock-full of information.

The Transportation Amendment: Ask the Question
We have been hearing so much about this Transportation amendment that is on the ballot this November, it is important to understand its genesis.

First, what it is: It seeks to dedicate 100% of the existing sales tax on all motor vehicles to transportation projects. Most Minnesotans are surprised that currently only 54% of that tax is spent on transportation projects and so this sounds like a good thing to do.

Next: Let’s remember where it came from. In 2005, a gas tax was imposed in a rare bipartisan bill that passed both the House and the Senate. Along with this gas tax was a call for a constitutional amendment that would be placed in front of voters to dedicate motor vehicle dollars to transportation and transit projects. Governor Pawlenty vetoed the bill. But a governor cannot veto the call for a constitutional amendment–so there we have it. The original bill intended for new revenues to be raised through an increased gas tax.    

The proponents of this amendment are making the case that the passage of this amendment will “raise a permanent infusion of more than $300 million per year in new revenue for the state’s roads and transit system, without raising taxes” [AAA Living Sept/Oct 06]. Boy, doesn’t that sound great? We get something for nothing! But here’s the deal: that $300 million that will be solely dedicated to transportation and transit projects is now in the general fund –that same general fund that is being used to fund our schools and other services like child care and health care for our most vulnerable children. We ask, and hope that you will too –“If this amendment passes, what will be used to fill that hole? Or do we simply continue the cuts?”

Local Levies
So many of you are working feverishly to pass local levies. If you need help, you may want to check out our website for information–or call to talk!

According to a Minnesota School Boards Association survey, “68 districts will be trying for operating levy referendums Nov. 7. Two districts had levy referendums on Sept. 12. Six districts had bond referendums on Sept. 12. Another 15 districts will be trying to pass bond referendums Nov. 7. Two others will be trying for Dec. 19 bond referendums.”

South Washington County, Roseville, St. Cloud, Kingsland, Roseau, Hill City and Barnum all passed bond or levy questions Sept. 12. Willow River‘s operating levy was the lone issue to fail.


Great Schools Begin at the Ballot Box
So the election season is in full swing. What an election year in Minnesota! As we prepare for a critical funding year for our public schools, there are 201 seats to fill in the Minnesota Legislature for 2007, as well as all five of our state level offices — Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State and State Auditor. At the federal level we have a hotly contested Senate seat and eight congressional seats. This is a year where every seat but one is up for re-election. More than 400 candidates will be running for public office between now and November 7.

One way that you can be an effective advocate is to get involved in a campaign. Choose a candidate that you support and help them win the election. Elected officials remember the people who helped their campaign. It’s a great way to begin building relationships with your elected officials.

Also, know where candidates stand on public school issues. We don’t believe that electing single issue candidates is the way to get a great legislature, but if you know where an elected official stands on issues of public schools it does give you a good idea where they may stand on other issues. Check our website for questions you can ask your candidates. We hope asking these questions will be helpful as you prepare for the upcoming election. Download them and carry them with you to ask those folks at a forum or just at the grocery store.

On a personal note, I was incredibly disappointed that Governor Pawlenty pulled out of the Alliance for Student Achievement forum at the last minute. I encouraged so many of you to attend and this was one of the main events. I was happy to see that Mike Hatch, Peter Hutchinson and Ken Pentel attended and addressed the audience individually, but it would have been far better if we had been able to see all of our gubernatorial candidates side by side in a true debate format.

Questions? mary@parentsunited.org

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