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Forum editorial: Scholars point out the obvious

A letter from three Minnesota Rhodes Scholars has taken on a political twist that might detract from its basic truth. The letter is of interest in the Red River Valley because one of writers was David Simon of Moorhead. The others were Gretchen D...

A letter from three Minnesota Rhodes Scholars has taken on a political twist that might detract from its basic truth. The letter is of interest in the Red River Valley because one of writers was David Simon of Moorhead. The others were Gretchen Domek of St. Cloud and Matt Landreman of St. Paul.

The letter criticized Gov. Tim Pawlenty's education policies. Cuts in education, the writers charged, had a direct impact on the quality of classroom education in the state. They said they were concerned, and then cited how the cuts affected their school districts.

The response from the governor's office was a tad patronizing. The implication was the students were not fully informed about education funding.

Well, they were. For example, cuts in state funding for their school districts were:

E Moorhead, about $500,000 or slightly more than $100 per student.

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E St. Cloud, $2.3 million, or $245 per student.

E St. Paul, $9.5 million, or $129 per student. (The figures come from school districts and the Senate Education Policy Committee.)

In the larger picture the cuts are even more serious:

E $13.5 million from early childhood programs.

E $13 million in limited English proficiency programs.

E $127 million in extended day and extended year programs.

E $70 million from special education.

It is dishonest for the governor's people to minimize education cuts. They were deep and in many school districts resulted in excess mill levies and other shifts of the tax burden. The scholars were pointing out a reality that school officials understand, even if the governor's people won't recognize it.

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However, Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL- Hopkins, couldn't resist the opportunity to turn the scholars' observations into a political shot. He sent a letter to newspapers in which he tried to place all the blame for education cuts on the governor. That won't wash.

Legislators also abdicated their responsibility to the schools. The Republican House did little of significance to moderate the cuts. The Democratic Senate, where Kelley works, made a lot of noise, but in the end the education cuts passed without major modifications.

It takes three parts to make the education funding cocktail. All three parts were stirred into the glass, and the public schools ended up thirsty.

The Rhodes Scholars merely were pointing out the obvious. All the political hot air the Capitol crowd can generate doesn't change that.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board

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