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Letter: Work together for A+ education

To the Editor:

Minnesota's tradition of high quality public education has garnered considerable praise and it's been a key component of our economic competitiveness and quality of life. Test results consistently rank our students among the highest achieving and our schools among the nation's best.

We should all be proud. After all, our work ethic, high expectations and hard-earned tax dollars contributed to this success.

However, we can't be complacent. There are no "easy A's" is education.

Our national standing has slipped. More and more families face social and economic hardship -- and we're asking schools to do more than ever before.

State commitment to funding education hasn't kept up with needs -- it hasn't even kept up with inflation. Over the past decade, per-pupil aid has declined by over 12 percent when adjusted for inflation. The share of our personal income devoted to education though state and local taxes has declined by a similar number since 2003. Schools have relied upon deep cuts and local referendums to fill the gap.

Of course, renewed state funding alone won't solve our problems. We need to strike the right balance of high standards and accountability that isn't onerous and counter-productive. We need to better prepare our graduates for the workforce. We need to make high school more meaningful for more of students. We need to close the achievement gap before it widens beyond repair.

Given these challenges and the urgent need to reinvest in education, I'm proud of the funding plan the Senate DFL released this week. The proposal strengthens schools (and provides property tax relief) by targeting much-needed dollars toward all-day kindergarten for all Minnesota kids, as well as increased basic formula, early childhood and special education funding.

The plan also addresses inequities among districts of varying property tax wealth, ensuring that students in Greater Minnesota have the same opportunities as their metropolitan peers.

The plan also provides new school safety aid and includes a number of policy provisions aimed at increased accountability, reduced mandates, and an emphasis on college and career readiness.

Much work remains in making our schools the best they can be and giving our students the opportunities they deserve. This proposal is a step in the right direction.

Matt Schmit

Red Wing

Matt Schmit, DFL, represents Senate District 21.