Here in Minnesota, we have a uniquely common (oxymoron, much?) problem in regards to education. It is common in what is going on, and somewhat unique in how we are dealing with it. Like many other states, the state budget is in rough shape. Billion-dollar deficit shape, as of 2011. Our previous Governor, Tim Pawlenty, broke his arm patting himself on the back for balancing the budget. The next resident of the Governor’s mansion, Mark Dayton, was elected mostly on the idea of restoring priorities in education and social programs. Plus, Timmy wanted to be prez. Trouble is, not much changed.
The sad fact is that for the past several years, major budgetary “shifts” in education budget money has been used to pay the bills, and while the budgets have been promoted as being balanced, the truth is that schools in MN are owed millions, perhaps billions.
While the state carries on the charade that the budget is balanced and we are aiding education, schools are still borrowing against future funds while trying to negotiate contracts for all sorts of things, not the least of which is the teaching corps.
Educators in the state, teachers, principals, and superintendents are wearing thin of being the pawn in state political games. At some point, schools will need to face a potential reality, that the bills might not be paid and the contracts not settled because of state budget uncertainty. How does that affect Mrs. Murphy’s 3rd grade class? How is this good for students?
It’s time for everyone involved with public education (including parents and students), to scream to the politicians that if they can’t find a way to make education sustainable and prioritize it, they need to admit they aren’t trying. Playing politics with kids is a recipe for disaster, and I hope MN and the rest of the country realize it before we lose teachers, schools, and students altogether.