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At what cost? Our view: Call for fully funded E-12 education hardly realistic

News media around the state last week received a press release from Education Minnesota, the union representing the majority of Minnesota’s public-school teachers. The union wants Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz to support full funding for E-12 education, even if it means increasing taxes on Minnesota’s wealthiest residents and corporations. As a former public-school teacher, Walz knows the union well. He campaigned successfully on a platform that included more funding for E-12 funding.
Gov. Walz released his first proposed budget yesterday, after The Chronicle went to press.
We hope the union recognizes it can’t realistically expect the $3.70 billion to $4.33 billion it wants in the next biennium. This is, we hope, the first of efforts to win a more modest, sustainable increase in E-12 funding and not a one-time effort to win back the funding shortfalls of the past when some school districts had to take out short-term loans to cover delays in funding from the state.
At a time when Gov. Walz has proposed a 10-cent increase in the state’s gas tax, Education Minnesota’s request is a bold one. With a budget of about $18 billion over two years, E-12 funding amounts to about 41 percent of the state’s biennial operating budget, the largest share of the pie. Let’s be a little bit realistic here. Education Minnesota will be one of several groups to make a case for an increase in funding in the upcoming budget approval process. We’ve said before, our quality of life has a cost. That doesn’t mean, however, everyone gets all they want.
Minnesota needs more funding for transportation, for the working poor, health care, for debt-riddled college students, natural resources and parks, investment in our facilities and infrastructure, and so many more things. The list is too long to fund everything.
No reasonable person will argue educating children is not vitally important. It’s a truism for all time. We have previously called for moderation of extreme positions. Perhaps the federal government could fully fund its share of special education mandates. Despite the benefits they’ve received from the current federal administration at the expense of the middle class, the wealthy and corporations can’t be the golden goose expected to fund all our wants and needs.
If Education Minnesota is truly worried about its members are struggling with burnout, take the concerns to the bargaining table. In addition to welcoming sustainable increases in state funding, make class sizes an issue. Stop shortchanging young teachers on the salary schedule so they don’t have to struggle to make ends meet. Consider compromises dedicated to reducing burnout.
Yes, these are local issues. Since everyone has skin in the game, the solution to inadequate E-12 funding won’t be solved only in St. Paul.

-jm