Editorial: It’s time to fight for the schools

Published 8:12 am Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Remember how divisive the referendum election for additional funding of Albert Lea Area Schools was back in 2007? An abundance of community effort, creativity and commentary was spent on getting votes for or against that levy.

That same level of effort, creativity and commentary needs to be spent on getting Minnesota lawmakers to properly fund education and to make the education-funding system equitable. All children deserve the same quality education no matter whether they live in a rich suburb or near a poor farm town.

The reason the Albert Lea community suffered such wide division in the fall of 2007 was because of the backward situation in which the state has left its school districts. Economy bad, fair or good, the school funding formula needs changing.

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The Minnesota Miracle worked, but it was upended by Gov. Jesse Ventura’s Big Plan, which to many seemed like a good idea for a year or two but it had limitations long term. Yet, somehow, this is the broken system we continue to use.

Long story short, school districts are forced to use referendum levies, originally meant to fund extras, to cover basic operation costs.

Subsequent legislatures and Gov. Tim Pawlenty have failed to address the problems. Ventura might have been on the wrong track when it comes to education, but at least he had the guts to attempt a new idea. We are looking for politicians who have the necessary guts to revise the state’s education system.

And it just might take the voices of constituents to let them know. Write letters. Call or write senators, representatives and the governor. The people that fall who expended all that energy because they were concerned about their schools need to expend the same or more energy now — when it really counts.