Minnesotans have long understood the value of a good education. For generations, we have invested in all levels of education, from pre-schools to graduate schools. As a result, Minnesota schools have been the envy of the nation. Our high school graduation rates are higher, our ACT scores routinely top the rankings and our colleges and universities are listed as some of the best in the country.
Our superior education system, however, has a more tangible effect than just a boost to our state's self-esteem. Minnesota has been able to attract high tech business and good paying jobs because we boast a highly educated workforce with a strong work ethic. Year after year, Minnesota's economy has outperformed the national economy and we have created homegrown corporate powerhouses like 3M and Medtronic.
The times, however, are a changing.
Minnesota now competes in a global marketplace, and our education system is compared not just to other states, but also to countries oceans away. At the same time, the value of an education has increased immeasurably as outsourcing eliminates jobs with a lower educational threshold. Thirty years ago, a high school graduate from Minnesota could reasonably expect to find a stable job with decent pay. Today, a college or technical education is essential.
The fact of the matter is that Minnesota has to invest more in our schools today than we did thirty years ago in order to achieve the same results. Because a superior educational system is so critical to our success as a state, the debate is not about whether or not to fund our schools, but how do we fund our schools.
In the last few years, the Legislature and the Governor have funded our education system in the wrong way and the result has been harmful to both Minnesota schools and property owners. Instead of funding schools at the state level, they passed the burden on to local school districts who, in turn, raised property taxes using school levies. This has two negative consequences.
First, it has caused property taxes to soar all across Minnesota, which is especially unfair to the elderly and people on fixed incomes.
Second, it has exacerbated the gap between property rich and property poor school districts.
It used to be that levies were a tool used by school districts to provide for the extras: nicer athletic facilities, more arts, etc… More recently, however, school districts have had to turn to levies to provide funds for the basics in our educational system. Property poor school districts now have less money for the essentials than their more fortunate neighbors. That just isn't right.
I believe that every child in Minnesota deserves access to a quality education, no matter where they grow up. This means shifting the burden of educational funding back to the state level.