Let’s rethink education funding


A recent quote by a southern Minnesota superintendent piqued my interest. In a news report aired on KIMT in Mason City, Iowa, reporter Gwen Siewert talked to school leaders in four districts about the progress of their four-year program to share resources to save money.

The southern Minnesota districts are Lyle, Glenville-Emmons, Grand Meadow and LeRoy. They agreed two years ago to share special education services. The program is working and they say sharing teachers, textbooks and administrators may be down the road.

Here’s the quote that jumped out at me: Lyle Public Schools Superintendent Jerry Reshetar said “we’ve got to get by with less, how do we do that? And that’s why these schools have to come together and say let’s figure out a way to do this. So we can reduce our cost and maintain our high level of education.”

A fair enough thought, but what occurs to me is why schools must make do with less? Why do they have to reduce their costs while pulling rabbits out of hats to maintain quality?

The state has gutted education spending since 2003. Schools can’t fold, so they stay open while ratcheting down their resources, forcing the quality of education to suffer. Fewer teachers in the buildings mean fewer subject choices. More students in the classroom means less time spent with teachers. Dropout prevention, early childhood education, the achievement gap — when do these necessities get addressed?

The cost of providing a quality education may seem high, but it is nowhere near as high as the price to be paid if schools are not adequately funded and students are not adequately educated.

Schools are not businesses, and education budgets aren’t like business budgets. Efficiency: Yes. Needless cuts, accounting gimmicks, education on a downward slide and an undereducated generation of Minnesotans unable to compete in the 21st century workplace: No.