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Letter: Choosing children over politics

Rep. Bennett recently voted against the summer school funding bill (HF1064). Bennett is a retired teacher. We should all expect better from her.

In her “Legislative News” on March 26, Bennett claimed she voted against HF1064 because it micromanaged schools and provided more per pupil funding to schools like Minneapolis.

HF1064 does include more grants that allow districts to choose the programs they would like to offer and apply for the necessary funding. Grant writing is never fun, but the grants offer district’s choice based on student and district needs, not micromanagement.

With the exception of one grant for a Minneapolis-based after school program (Ignite Afterschool), I don’t see any money allocated disproportionately to Minneapolis schools in HF1064. Given that Minneapolis elementary students just went back to in-person instruction in February and middle and high schoolers won’t be returning until April, I wouldn’t be opposed if more money was allocated. But it’s not.

Bennett mentioned a preferred bill that she and Republicans attempted to bring to the House floor (which I believe to be HF2274).

Instead of allowing districts to apply for the grants they need, HF2274 allocated funding per pupil, which would guarantee districts with larger student populations (not necessarily larger needs) receive more money. More students equals more funding.

While students with disabilities were one the hardest hit populations to struggle with distancing learning, HF2274 doesn’t mention these students. HF1064 explicitly allows for summer transition programming, home visits and determining if truancy was a manifestation of a student’s disability.

HF1064 includes declining pupil aid; HF2274 does not. Albert Lea Area Schools and many small surrounding districts have declining enrollment, which was exasperated by COVID. This aid directly helps the school districts in House District 27A.

As is the case with most bills, neither bill is perfect. The reality is that we couldn’t wait until next year (or even a couple of months) to pass the “perfect” summer school bill. Districts need to be able to start planning ASAP. Bennett is a retired teacher and should understand this.

I hope next time Bennett will choose children over politics when she casts a vote on education.

Angie Hanson

Albert Lea