Offering No Answers, Seifert Plays Class Clown
By Christopher Truscott
Spring means a lot of things in Minnesota. Ice houses come off the lakes, the Twins take the field at the Metrodome, road construction season starts and, sadly, school districts statewide begin their annual exercise in budget cutting.
From wealthier districts in places like Stillwater to poorer districts like those in Minneapolis and St. Paul, the cuts are never easy and always painful. Which teachers get laid off? Which programs do we go without? Which fees do we raise? These are hardly the questions that lured many talented people into careers in public education.
Investment in the future was once an article of faith in this state, but over the last few years it has given way to politically expedient and intellectually and morally bankrupt slogans like “no new taxes.”
The great spirit of community and concern for the common good that produced the Minnesota Miracle is quickly devolving toward a new era of “me first, damn everyone else.” We can change this, but it’s going to take bipartisan leadership – and we’re not off to a good start.
House Republican Leader Marty Seifert was up to his normal stunts Friday at the Capitol, waving a “certificate of death” for the DFL plan that would raise income taxes on individuals making more than $226,000 a year and families taking in more than $400,000 annually. The small tax increase on a relative few would generate hundreds of millions of dollars for property tax relief and public education.
Seifert, an admissions counselor at the public Southwest Minnesota State University and a licensed public school teacher, doesn’t have any answers to the challenges facing our state. Instead he struts before the cameras at the Capitol, blurting out quips and hoping nobody notices that he and his party have opted to stand with the 1 percent of spectacularly wealthy Minnesotans at the expense of everyone else.
Do the math: the median household income in Minnesota is just shy of $51,000 a year. In Seifert’s own district it’s even lower. For years higher property taxes have been employed as a very painful means of supplementing sub-inflationary state education spending. DFLers have offered a positive new direction and Republicans are rushing to defend the status quo and the uber-rich. It’s really as simple as 2+2=4.
Perhaps the minority leader needs to go back to school. There are lessons to be learned in his hometown of Marshall, where local leaders are struggling to trim more than $300,000 from the school district’s budget.
“While budget reductions are never easy, the sad reality is that this has become the rule rather than the exception for school districts across Minnesota,” Marshall Public Schools Superintendent Klint Willert wrote in an op-ed piece published recently in the local paper. “… In our great state and country we have a long history of supporting schools so they might be strong and effective institutions preparing our future workforce and leaders. Without an investment in our youth today, we will pay a much greater price as a nation tomorrow, and that is a cost that none of us can afford.”
Willert gets it and so do Minnesotans. We must do better and action toward that end can’t be delayed any longer.
When will Seifert learn that he can’t be a leader while offering no solutions and instead playing the role of class clown?
Christopher Truscott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. As a student he preferred the role of class clown over that of class leader.