Back to School!

Back to School!

Reconnecting
This summer was incredibly short – cold in June followed by a state shutdown, hot in July with a one-day special legislative session, and perfect in August! Now summer’s over and our children are heading back to school. There is something that connects us as school parents, and if you like these updates you probably know others to share them with. Encourage them to sign on to our E-list – the stronger our parent network, the better our schools will be.

This summer, MinnPost highlighted a Parents United initiative that compiled articles spotlighting the national organization ALEC and their impact on schools here in Minnesota; this is an excellent read.

Legislative Update
Two special elections will be held on October 18, 2011, for the state Senate seats opened by the retirement of Sen. Linda Berglin (SD 61, Minneapolis) and the death of Sen. Linda Scheid (SD 46, Brooklyn Park). Any special session to deal with the Vikings stadium issue would likely be delayed until after these elections.

Running a levy in your district?

“In FY 2003, the average statewide levy was $491 per-pupil. By FY 2013, the average inflation-adjusted levy is projected to be $1,157 per-pupil, a $666 increase using 2003 dollars.”
—Minnesota 2020

According to the Minnesota School Boards Association more than one-third of school districts will be going out for levies this year, more than at any other time in the last decade! Parents working on levy campaigns may be interested in the MN2020 article and report referenced above.

In spring of 2011 the Commissioner’s Education Funding Working Group developed recommendations for a vastly improved system for funding Minnesota’s schools. Parents United was a member of this working group and will advocate for these recommendations to become law. Our current funding formula only exacerbates the merry-go-round of parents running levies year after year. Enough is enough!

Parents United’s Levy Resources

What’s happening in education reform circles these days?
With all the talk about education reform, staying informed on what is working and what is hype could be a full-time job. A short while ago it was the work of Michelle Rhee, then chancellor of the Washington DC public schools, that was believed to be THE way to close the achievement gaps so challenging our nation. After the mayor who appointed her lost his bid for re-election, Ms. Rhee resigned to begin a national nonprofit focusing on the education reforms she had championed in DC. A New York Times article challenges the connection between those reforms and documented student achievement.

So what reforms do work?
The question I am asked most often is, “What will work to assure success for our school children?” Finland is the country most applauded for their work in educating ALL children. The Smithsonian magazine provides a wonderful overview of just how the Finnish school system works.

What does a presidential campaign have to do with our schools?
If you’re not sure if a presidential election or a national election has any impact for schools this article may change your mind.

A brain teaser and some editorial comments…
So here’s a brain teaser: What do the recent Minnesota legislative session and the state shutdown have to do with our children heading back to school this fall?

The first year of the 87th Legislative Session ended with the state’s defining issue once again eluding resolution. While the economic downturn exacerbated Minnesota’s current budget crisis, it is the recent history of “kicking the can down the road” in our political process that has brought us to our knees. An inability to responsibly deal with the state’s structural imbalance has caused budget deficits in Minnesota eight of the last nine years and guarantees that our next biennium will begin with the same problem.

As the 2011 special session limped to an end we saw a Capitol closed to the public, an E12 education bill pieced together with a one-hour 2 AM public display, AND a budget resolution which once again used schools as the state’s piggy bank.

What does this mean for schools? The political rhetoric is that schools will have increased revenue: an additional $50 annually on the school formula. But the reason expressed by our representatives for this additional money is that schools need it to pay for borrowing! You can dress it up all you want, but it’s hard to fight the fact that we are increasing a formula that we aren’t paying for!

Don’t get lost in the numbers; the story is simple. Consider: your company is in trouble and has asked you to take 60% of your salary this year with a promise of paying the other 40% next year. One proviso – the company needs to be doing much better financially next year in order for them to have the money to pay you. The question on every one of our minds should be: How will that promise be met in the next biennium, for which revenue projections are just as dire?

We always hear that children are our future, that ALL children must have the opportunity to succeed. We couldn’t agree more. But how do we educate 100% of our children with 60% funding?

Mary Cecconi, Executive Director (mary@parentsunited.org)
Parents United for Public Schools
1667 Snelling Avenue N., St. Paul, MN 55108
651-999-7391
www.parentsunited.org

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