It's all about the money

The presidential campaign is interesting, but education reform activists in Minnesota need to pay attention to the state House of Representatives races. The entire House is up for election, and all candidates will be caught between the irresistible force of More Money For Schools and the immovable object of No New Taxes.

Julie Quist at EdWatch got an earful of the irresistible force at the Minnesota Alliance for Student Achievement second annual Minnesota Education Summit last week. The Alliance's alphabet soup of member organizations should be listed under the dictionary definition of "education establishment:"

  • Education Minnesota teachers' union

  • Association of Metropolitan School District (AMSD)

  • Minnesota School Boards Association (MSBA)

  • Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP)

  • Schools for Equity in Education (SEE)

  • Minnesota Association of School Business Officials (MASBO)

  • Minnesota Elementary School Principals Association (MESPA)

  • Minnesota Rural Education Association (MREA)

  • Minnesota Association of School Administrators (MASA)

  • Minnesota Parent, Teacher, Student Association (PTSA)

Every one of these organizations has a legislative subcommittee (Education Minnesota's offices are across the street from the Capitol, if that tells you anything), and many of them have their own local member organizations with their own activists. These groups will make their presence known during the campaign with candidate forums and report cards, letters to the editor and endorsements. They will follow up with a more or less coordinated campaign platform consisting of these planks, reported in Quist's update to EdWatch members:

  1. Increase the gas tax.

  2. Expand the sales tax to clothing.

  3. Increase taxes on corporate incomes.

  4. Increase property taxes.

  5. Defeat the taxpayers bill of rights (TABOR).

  6. Do not make the federal tax cuts permanent.

  7. Initiate a massive new $1.5 billion state early childhood program.

  8. Increase spending on higher education.

  9. Increase spending on transportation.

  10. Spend more money on after-school programs.

  11. Have candidates sign a tax and spend pledge to counter the Taxpayers League "no new taxes" pledge.
I am detecting a theme here. It's all about the money. As my daughter would say, "no duh!"

I would like the Legislature to explore ideas for overhauling the state's K-12 financing formulas (i.e., throwing out 90% of them), repealing mandates in order to give school boards real discretion to run their own schools, and funding the schools with property taxes rather than sales and income taxes (i.e., repealing the Ventura "miracle").

You'd better get informed and involved in the House elections, because they will help shape the K-12 finance debate when the Legislature convenes on January 4. We already know that the Minnesota Alliance for Higher Taxes will be there in force -- along with their media arm, the Star Tribune.