Stillwater: Education Funding, Again
Here's another post from Eric--he rephrases his question on the shortage of school funding here in the St. Croix valley.
I'm still a little lost on this. Have costs gone up, revenue streams gone down or both? I guess I want to know is how we could afford this stuff in the past but can no longer do so. Has the whole equation changed? Were school districts (especially ours) operating in the black or in the red back then?
Maybe this is the wrong place to search for answers, but I'll start here anyways.
Eric's question is directed to "tn", a commentator who suggested that the fault lies with former Governor Jesse Ventura's re-structuring of school funding during his term of office.
I don't think I agree with "tn's" take on things. I think that he's blaming Ventura--the guy who's "out of the room" and out of favor with both of the current political parties--for the problem. That explanation might fly if Ventura was still in the Governor's mansion, but those days are long gone. "tn's" explanation sounds a little too much like the current "GOP line" on what to tell people when they ask about cuts to education--blame the guy who's out of the room.
Jesse is not one of my heros, by the way: the tax refund checks he took credit for sending out were stupid political grandstanding. Like other "low taxes, anti-Clinton governors", Ventura was enjoying the fruits of the national economic boom of the nineties; these governors were coasting along on the free ride they got out of the Clinton stewardship of the economy. It was irresponsible for him to throw money back at the taxpayers in order to make himself look good--the responsible thing to do would have been to plow it back into the state's infrastructure, pay the money owed to public employees--or fund public schools. Most Minnesotans polled at the time didn't want "Jesse checks" anyway, they wanted the money invested back into the state; a hedge against bad times in the future--which arrived, when Pawlenty took over.
No, Jesse's not the villain in the school funding issue. It's Pawlenty and the GOP. They cut the state funding to municipalities; notoriously, Pawlenty said that local officials who couldn't run their towns without the state funding should be fired as incompetent. The meta-objects of this game is 1) decrease the state taxes on the richest people in the state 2) transfer the burden of taxation to local governments and to people who aren't rich (hikes in local property taxes, hikes in fees paid by the middle class and the poor) 3) break the public schools.
Why would conservatives want to break the public schools? Because they'd love to see a privatized educational system; they hate the public schools. Reasons they'd love to see privatization: 1) The teacher's unions are notoriously Democratic--if conservatives could press a button and abolish the teachers' unions they'd do it in a heartbeat, and replace them all with charter schools and non-union teachers. Same goes for other public employees' unions, of course. Scab labor=conservative's wet dream. 2) Privatization represents a potentially huge income stream for . Imagine the money local, state and federal government spends on education, channeled to private sector education companies--you get a piece of that, you're Richie Rich, like the HMOs. A trend toward privatization, on the national scale, could be a bigger boondoggle than the Savings and Loans, than Bush's plan to privatize Social Security.
Despite what they say about committment to public education, this is the conservative agenda. They have a vested interest in seeing public schools fail, and seeing that the services offered by public schools deteriorate or disappear. The essential goal doesn't change, but the rhetoric takes different turns: this last few months, you are hearing all this talk about making sure that "our tax dollars are spent in the classroom." Sounds good, tested well with the focus groups--sounds like they're voting less tax dollars for administrative bureaucracies and more for the kids, right? Nope. Pawlenty's talking about less tax dollars for administrative bureaucracies--but also less state tax dollars to support public school's physical plant (e.g. heating the buildings, keeping them in repair) and less state tax dollars to support all those "extra-curricular" programs you're talking about. That kind of spending isn't "in the classroom."
Running down the public schools is part of a national conservative agenda, and it's being implemented at the state and local levels. Watch how they talk, compare it to what they fund, and you will have the answer to your question, Eric.