Archived Story

Dayton budget fails to address school obligation

Published 9:28am Monday, January 28, 2013

Although many words of praise and condemnation have already been heaped on Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget proposal, a plan that involves sweeping change in Minnesota’s tax policies, one point strikes us as immediately important: The budget does not appear to quickly enough address the state’s obligation to repay more than $1 billion owed to K-12 public schools.

While there has been lots of snap analysis of the budget, the reality is that it is a complex plan and we doubt that many have really been able to fully analyze its implications. Certainly we have not. Nor is there any likelihood that Minnesota’s eventual budget will ever resemble the governor’s plan; many legislators and lobbyists will be involved in the process between now and spring. So we focus only on one point for now: Repayment of the state’s K-12 obligation.

As best we can tell from the governor’s budget documents, which can be viewed at the state’s website, schools will have to wait until 2017 to be fully repaid the money that previous administrations and legislatures shifted to patch up deficits. If that is indeed the plan, it’s an unacceptable delay, especially given all the talk from St. Paul about the importance of education. It simply doesn’t make much sense to claim increased support for education when the state hasn’t even met its old obligations.

Much will be said and written about taxation and spending plans over the next few months. It’s too early to draw any conclusions about how any of these proposed changes will affect Minnesotans. It is not too early, however, to restate the importance of repaying schools what they are owed.