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|Paynesville Press - July 18, 2001|
Legislators comment about K-12 education
While the local school board and administration wondered how much state aid they would get and whether it would be enough to avoid more budget cuts, area legislators had their own perspective about the K-12 education funding passed this legislative session.|
"The state funding for schools was increased, and there is funding directed at rural schools," said Sen. Michelle Fischbach (R-Paynes-ville), who represents much of Stearns County as District 14 in the Senate. "In addition to taking over the general education property tax, the state also increased funds for schools in the next two years by $381 million. Several "equity" measures will also benefit our schools."
The final education funding was better than the governor's initial proposal, which contained no increase in the per pupil formula, said Rep. Doug Stang (R-Cold Spring), who represents southern Stearns County as part of District 14B. The state picking up the $415 for the excess levy in the second year of the biennium along with property tax relief should allow school districts to approach voters about more excess levies, he added.
"Due to many factors, such as declining enrollment, rural school districts will most likely see continued shortfalls," said Sen. Dean Johnson (DFL-Willmar), who represents Kandiyohi County as part of District 15 in the Senate. "If the Legislature does not provide even modest funding to help school districts pay for continually rising costs, school officials would probably have no alternative but to cut important educational programs."
"Minnesota needs a per pupil formula that more accurately reflects the cost of an education," added Johnson.
"I don't think there's any doubt that most rural school districts have serious budget concerns, mainly because of dwindling resources caused by declining enrollments," said Rep. Al Juhnke (DFL-Willmar), who represents the northern part of Kandiyohi County as part of District 15A.
A boost in the formula funding as well as money for declining enrollment will help school districts. "However, it's unlikely that this year's budget agreement will prevent cuts at every rural school district," Juhnke added. "This is largely a matter of commitment and priorities. We should be doing more."
Sen. Steve Dille (R-Dassel), who represents Meeker County as part of District 20 in the Senate, puts the onus on local school districts to stay out of the red. "Settle salary contracts so the school budget remains balanced, as will be required by state law during the next round of negotiations,"Ęsaid Dille.
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