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LETTER: Keep Schmit working for rural schools

 

To the Editor:

The issues relative to school finance are often rural versus metro rather than issues between the political parties. In 1972 when the Minnesota Miracle was supposed to equalize funding across districts, millions of additional dollars had to be added under Aid for Dependent Children or there would have been drastic cuts in funding for metropolitan schools and Agriculture Credit had to be added for rural schools or many farms would have been forfeited for failure to pay the school taxes.

For years the ability of the metro area to pass large excess operating referendums, because industry and retail paid most of the local levy rather than homeowners, was a big part of the difference in rural versus metro per student funding.

In recent years, the Legislature instituted several funding sources to reduce the inequity between rural and metro per pupil funding, and Sen. Matt Schmit has been a large part of that movement.

Schmit campaigned to repay a $1 billion school funding shift borrowed against our schools by previous legislatures when state budget times were tough, and he delivered on that promise.

While unproductive political battles have been waged for decades regarding recalibrating the school funding formula, Schmit and his rural colleagues focused on new approaches to school finance that target resources to our rural schools.  

Funding for aging and expensive school infrastructure, equity aid to help districts with limited property tax base, full funding for districts that choose to offer all-day, everyday kindergarten, and state-based property tax relief for farmers hit hard by school facility levies are just a few examples of this important work.

There is no stronger advocate for rural broadband access to rural families and students than Schmit. This work has been tremendously valuable to rural schools looking to extend the learning day; leverage technology and new approaches to learning; and make our rural students more competitive with their suburban peers.

I spent more than 30 years working with the Minnesota school finance system as a superintendent of schools and believe we should keep Schmit working for rural Minnesota in the Legislature.

Dr. Bruce Montplaisir

Altura, Minn. 

 
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