A group of legislative candidates attended a St. Michael-Albertville joint legislative forum Monday, Nov. 29, and promised to help make a difference for school funding inequity.
STMA hosted the meeting as a way to continue discussion regarding the Schools For Equity in Education (SEE) group of which STMA and 59 other school districts belong to lobby the legislature for greater school funding equity.
Deb Griffiths of SEE noted how schools in SEE are at a disadvantage to other Minnesota school districts that receive more state funding due to categorical qualifications and property wealth. For example, an SEE brochure indicates that Hopkins residents pay $153 for a $1,633 per pupil school levy per $100,000 assessed value, whereas STMA residents pay $497 for that same per pupil levy amount.
“We see the kids in our districts have less opportunity, and we’re looking to address disparity,” Griffiths said.
Attendees included Bruce Anderson (R) seeking Senate 29 election; David Fitzsimmons (R) seeking House 30B election; Marion O’Neill (R), seeking House 29B election; Mary Kiffmeyer (R) seeking Senate 30 election; Brian Doran (D) seeking Senate 29 election; Paul Perovich (D) seeking Senate 30 election; and Sharon Shimek (D) seeking House 30B; and Joe McDonald (R) seeking House 29A.
STMA School Board member Drew Scherber encouraged the candidates to stop talking about the solutions and start doing something about it.
“What will you do to address this question (of inequity)?” Scherber said.
Kiffmeyer said the legislature is making progress. Perovich said a remedy can’t happen overnight and but encouraged action to prevent long-term budget deficits faced by area school districts.
Fitzsimmons admitted getting action accomplished in St. Paul is “difficult” but believes “things will get done.”
Shimek said all laws should be reviewed and that “far too often there’s not enough repeal” of laws.
St. Michael Mayor Jerry Zachman also surveyed the candidates about support for the Interstate 94 corridor.
The final topic was mandatory funding of special education. Perovich said his daughter succeeded in special education programs and encouraged school boards “to go out in the community and talk about it” and promote the Head Start program.
Kiffmeyer said the federal government “shouldn’t be left off the hook” in funding mandates.
After about an hour of discussion, moderator Doug Birk thanked the candidates and asked for applause for their attendance.