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Tuesday Talk: What should be MN’s education funding priority?

February 05, 2013 By Rachel Weeks, Communications Specialist

A decade of education underfunding and temporary funding shifts has forced districts to take out loans and cut the programs that are critical to a well-trained 21st century workforce. Governor Dayton’s proposed budget — which increases education funding for all levels — represents the beginning of a more solid path for schools.

As Minnesota schools look toward the future, where do they start repairing budgets? What programs, projects and priorities will build the best future for our state? 

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  • Nancy Meyerhoff says:

    February 5, 2013 at 7:36 am

    The most obvious fix is economic development aimed at getting children out of poverty.  Our problems go beyond that, however.  In addressing the achievement gap, I fear that we are barking up the wrong tree.  Many students have very little motivation.  No curriculum or technology will work with kids who have no vision or goal or will to do the work needed to learn.  A sizable group of my students do come to school with some vision of the future, and the motivation and will (if nothing else to keep from being grounded from the video game) to learn at good to excellent levels.  Many others however, could care less about learning and focus on their social interactions to make the day less unpleasant for themselves.  Their parents care and mean well, but seemingly do not know what to do to motivate their kids.

    I have been reading about programs that have had good success in teaching parents how to build the necessary foundation for their children—even with adolescents that many had given up on.  Educators and policy makers should take a look at How Children Succeed by Paul Tough.  Principal Baruti Kafele of New Jersey recently spoke to educators at Cooper High School in the Robbinsdale District.  He detailed how he and his staff developed this motivation in the at-risk students in his school.

    If we could replicate these efforts we would save untold millions in Title I and basic skills tutors.  We are wasting tons of money on children who fail to do the work to learn their basic math facts in 2nd grade.  In 3rd grade they fail to learn them again.  They come to me in 4th grade, make no effort and go on to 5th grade to repeat the process.  Each year they take up a seat in Title I.  They have no skin in the game.  Grades are not motivating if you don’t see a future   If you have failed enough, you don’t care. 

    I believe that we should use some of our resources to build incentives to learn into the system. I would like to see the option of a longer school day or extended school year (mandatory with transportation) for kids who fail to learn.  If it meant staying after school until 5 three days a week, a lot of kids in my class would rapidly improve! 

    I have been a teacher in both regular in special education for 35 years.

  • ChristeenStone says:

    February 5, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    WOW!Nancy has done such an excellent job of hitting all the problems and solutions.
    Education is a way out of a lot of our problems and of course it begins in the home. How dedicated are the parents in encouraging and insisting on their child’s education. I grew up in the depression when an education wasn’t always possible beyond high school.
    My first son was born in World War II and then we had 3 other, some the Boomers. We were determined our family would get a good education. We had one Doctor,an Occupational Therapist, a Lawyer and a Nurse.They worked hard to achieve their education.
    When my older ones were growing up our area was building one and 1/2 schools per year, to care for the Boomers. We were living on a single pay check, my husbands, but we dug deep and never complained about the rising taxes.
    We are in a different area now where we have both parents working and sometimes two or more jobs (living wages could solve that problem) or unemployed. So I agree we have to look at those issues to get Education back on track.

  • Nancy Jost says:

    February 5, 2013 at 1:06 pm



    URGENT: Minnesota’s youngest kids must be our #1 priority

    Nearly 50 percent of children in Minnesota begin kindergarten not fully prepared with the skills necessary to succeed in school.

    This daunting gap in school preparedness costs the state approximately $860 million each year in unnecessary expenditures (special education, police, courts, prisons, health care, social services, income supports, etc.).

    •Every year approximately 15,400 low-income children arrive at kindergarten not fully prepared to succeed, costing Minnesota $56,000 over the lifetime of each unprepared child and approximately $860 million for every year this trend continues. (Wilder Research)

    Quality early learning: There is no better return on investment.

    An investment in quality care and education for children before they reach Kindergarten has the highest possible return on investment for our state.

    •Well-focused investments in early childhood development yield high public returns, as much as $16 to $1. (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis)
    •Up to 90% of brain development happens before age 5, making the early years the most important time to invest in quality education.

    An additional $150 million annual investment would ensure all 3- and 4-year-olds and their younger siblings living at or below 185% of poverty (an additional 20,000 children) could access quality programs to prepare them for school. 

    •Currently early childhood accounts for 2.3% of Minnesota’s annual general fund budget.  An annual additional investment of $150 million would increase the percentage to just 2.75% of the annual general fund budget.

    Preparing Minnesota’s workforce begins before kindergarten starts.

    •By 2018, 70% of all Minnesota living wage jobs will require some post-secondary education.  Yet one quarter of our future workforce fails to graduate from high school.
    •Children who are school ready by age 5 are more likely to grow up to be productive in the workplace, a key to economic growth.

    Minnesota has one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation.

    The achievement gap begins at an early age – long before kindergarten. 

    •Local and national research has proven that kids that start behind face significant hurdles to academic achievement and often never catch up. 
    •Kids who start school behind are much more likely to require special education, less likely to ready by third grade, more likely to be behind in eighth grade and less likely to graduate from high school. 
    •Attendance in high quality early care and education settings is proven to substantially increase the number of children who start school ready to succeed.

    Getting children ready is the first step toward improving K-12 education.

    •When kids enter school not prepared to learn it impacts not only their personal achievement but the learning experience of all children in their classroom. 
    •Ensuring all kids are prepared to learn helps the entire K-12 education system, reducing the need for expensive remedial education, disruptive discipline and special education programs.

    When Minnesota’s kids have the best possible start, we’re all better off. 

    Making it possible for Minnesota kids to have access to quality early care and education helps:

    •All of Minnesota’s kids and families: reducing the burden on taxpayers by ensuring classrooms are filled with kids prepared to learn.
    •Our K-12 education system: reducing the need for expensive remedial education, disruptive discipline and special education programs. Getting children ready is the first step for improving K-12 education.
    •The future of Minnesota: when kids start school ready, they are more likely to fill high-demand jobs and contribute to Minnesota’s economic prosperity.


    Copyright 2013, MinneMinds


  • Lyelle Palmer, Ph.D. says:

    February 5, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    The current system assures that banks rake off a portion of the education budget (banks certainly have an “interest” in education—self-interest).  Why not let the state borrow the money from the districts and pay the interest to the districts?

  • Lonni Skrentner says:

    February 5, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    We must find a new revenue streams to fund early childhood and to fully fund special education.  If districts were not spending a portion of their general revenue for special education, it would be like having new money in K-12!

  • Phil Bratnober says:

    February 6, 2013 at 2:35 am

    The priority is straightforward. Find teachers who are talented, motivated, intelligent, creative, and mature in the social sense. Embrace the idea that these teachers will not all be the same age. Invite them into the system with salaries, incentives, and benefits that dignify the efforts they have made to become first-rate educators. Then support their work with the efforts of enlightened administrators - administrators who trust them, admire them, and care about them. Rid their classrooms of unnecessary bureaucracy, beginning with the crushing burden of teaching to tests they have not written themselves. Send them to fine professional development seminars in the summers. Above all, trust them, trust them, trust them. This will do it.