Minnesotans for Better Education, Standards and Testing

Minnbest is a non-partisan, broad based coalition of parents, educators and school advocacy groups who believe excellent public education is a foundation of democracy in America.

6/05/2004

What needs to be said louder to be heard above the echo-chamber

The Governor is listening to the echo-chamber of the taxpayer's league when he should be listening to the taxpayers. FUND OUR SCHOOLS!!!!

Editorial: School funding/A crisis of will at the top
June 5, 2004

The Minneapolis mom learned Thursday that her son's public high school won't have frogs for biology class, paint for art class or toner for the copy machine next year unless parents and other donors chip in $100,000 by Sept. 1.

But on Friday, she heard Gov. Tim Pawlenty say at the Humphrey Institute that money is an old-fashioned measure of society's commitment to public education. "We now have the sophisticated ability to measure what we're getting for the money. The debate is about to change," he said.

On Thursday, she heard her child's principal boast that a third of this year's graduates of the school's International Baccalaureate program scored in the top 5 percent in the nation in standardized college entrance exams.

The next day, the governor cited Minneapolis as the case in point when he said, "We spend a lot of money in some school districts that are getting very poor results."

He allowed that he might be willing to send some Minneapolis schools more money, as an experiment, but he sounded doubtful that money would make a real difference.

On Thursday, the mom was impressed to meet upwards of 80 parents who spend long hours on school committees, volunteer their expertise to teachers and administrators, open their homes for fundraisers, and write checks to keep the school in light bulbs and copy paper. The principal said his 2004-05 budget skimps on supplies because parents objected to the alternative -- increasing class sizes or laying off counselors, which would do more to diminish educational quality.

The next morning, the governor voiced the opinion that the biggest problem with public education is not meager resources, but irresponsible parents.

"The number-one challenge facing kids today is that their families are not in a position to take care of them in a way that is appropriate, responsible, or at least helpful," he said.

Pawlenty offered parents a battery of advice for improving public education: "Make sure [your children] are ready for school, get their sleep, get a decent breakfast . . . do their homework, elevate school and education over other nonsense that's eating up our children's life and time."

The mom wondered why the governor didn't mention the parents' responsibility to buy transparencies for overhead projectors or materials for science experiments. The principal did.

Next year, the state's biggest school district is facing its fourth straight year of budget cuts in excess of $20 million. State government has done nothing to date to ease that pain.

"We have a crisis of will to fund public education in this state," Jim Grathwol, the district's lobbyist at the State Capitol, said at the parents' meeting Thursday.

On Friday, the mom began to see why.