K-12 education cuts highlight legislature’s failure

The rise and fall of the Minnesota school system might soon be book fodder if citizens don’t demand legislative change. In the midst of the first recession and budget shortfall since the mid-’90s, state legislators sliced into the once-great Minnesota education system to balance the budget. In fact, the recently passed budget bill withholds $375 million from K-12 schools by not adjusting for inflationary costs. This takes a significant amount of the burden resulting from financial mismanagement by lawmakers and places it squarely on children. Yet other areas of the budget were never even touched. Cutting K-12 as a primary means to balance the budget is unacceptable.

Balancing the budget is our problem. Public servants, the citizens of Minnesota and the officials we elected are responsible for our current situation. Shifting the costs of our problem to a group of people who have no legal recourse because they’re under 18 and can’t vote is not only morally wrong, but it should also be illegal. People tend to only talk about things such as the 200 teachers who will be laid off next year in the Minneapolis district alone or the shortening of the school week. Maybe it’s because teachers can vote, or because they’re part of a union, but it seems misplaced. The real problem, the one that should headline when we cut education in favor of something else, is
“children’s education sacrificed for our wants today.”

Education is constructed from the ground up. Every time you miss a building block you weaken the foundation. A kid is only in third grade once, and everything withheld during that time is lost for good and affects every successive year. There is no fixing that when the economy booms again and people say, “All right, let’s put some money back into education until the next recession.” Children will have moved on and been irrevocably robbed. And tragically the thievery has already started. Marge Rolland, budget director for the Minneapolis school district that had to cut $30 million for 2002-03, said, “It’s going to be a greater challenge to get kids to achieve. A lot of the support systems for kids aren’t going to be there. It’s really unfortunate.” About the withheld $375 million and future cuts that might result she said, “At some point we’re going to really effect the education of our children.”

Perhaps the most offensive part of this robbery is that legislators could have cut from other areas first. At the very least, legislators who are in part directly responsible for the problems could’ve made cuts from their departmental budget, but they didn’t. Instead, to serve the best interests of today’s voters and themselves, they sacrificed the education of our youth.