Voting for education’s future

Local school districts are forced to seek property-tax hikes to cover costs.

While the country can’t stop talking about the upcoming presidential election in 2008, many Minnesota school districts are holding their breath about a more important vote coming in just more than a week.

On Nov. 6, many voters will head to the polls to vote on levies for school districts that are struggling to make ends meet. Comprising just under one-third of all the state’s school districts, some 99 districts are seeking to raise local property taxes to keep from laying off staff and cutting services. For example, the Anoka-Hennepin school district claims it will be forced to close six schools and eliminate 800 jobs if its levy fails.

The large proportion of school districts that are struggling financially is indicative of a state government that has failed to invest in one of the most basic public services. Education is one of the most important commitments that society can make, and Minnesota has long claimed to be an academic leader among the states. It was just recently that our state’s mastery of the ACT was touted. While the legitimacy of the ACT as a measure of our state’s educational success can be contested, the fact remains that Minnesota has a good reputation for providing strong education.

The story of the last five years has been Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s refusal to raise taxes of any kind. The effects of Pawlenty’s absurdly stubborn policy have caused rising property taxes across the state and a lack of funds to properly address basic needs such as transportation and education. With the legislature lacking the political will to stand up to Pawlenty’s agenda, we are left with crumbling school districts.

Our state’s political leaders must take control of this situation; schools should not have to go around begging voters for basic funding. The number of levies being considered should be viewed as a failure of our state government, and a failure that should not be repeated.