Questions for Candidates

The District 281 Legislative Action Coalition released a sample of questions that questions that may be asked at Tuesday’s debate.  We are going to have some fun with this and answer some of these questions as though WE are the candidate…

1. In 1997 Minnesota’s per pupil education spending was 8 percent above the national average. By 2007 Minnesota’s per pupil spending had dropped to 1.3 percent below the national average. What will you do to restore Minnesota’s historic commitment to education?

Answer: Talk about a misleading question…first off does “Minnesota’s spending” include local spending as well?  The state’s formula was reworked in the 2001, how is that factored into to the equation?  Also public school enrollment has decreased in Minnesota over the past ten years so are these figures a per pupil equation or as a percentage of the budget?  Sounds like a great question for a public school apologist.  Either way I’m sure it’s Pawlenty’s fault.

2. Do you support vouchers or expanded taxpayer subsidies for non-public schools?

Answer: Of course, why does it matter where a kid goes to school if “getting a great education” is what matters?

3. What strategies and investments will you support to ensure all children enter kindergarten
prepared to learn?

Answer: Investments? I’m not sure there is any way possible to ensure that “all children enter kindergarten prepared to learn.”  More nanny state anyone?

4. In recent years legislation has been proposed that would create a mandatory statewide health insurance pool for all school district employees. Do you support this proposed new mandate?

Answer: No, mandates make St. Paul look good at the expense of the locals.  The real solution is get the government out of the health care business and out of tenure and defined pensions.

5. Do you support granting levy authority to locally elected school boards to help stabilize education funding?

Answer: No, not without a public vote.  It’s OUR MONEY not theirs.

6. Do you support allowing locally elected school boards to renew an existing operating referendum by a majority vote of the school board after a public hearing?

Answer: HELL NO!!!!!!  Don’t let these people take away your right to vote!!!!

7. The February budget forecast projects that the state is facing a $5.6 billion budget shortfall in the 2012-13 biennium. How do you propose to balance the budget? Are there specific spending cuts or tax increases you will support to bring the budget into balance?

Answer: Tax increases?  I thought Ann Rest called it “revenue enhancement?”  Simple. Go to zero based budgeting, set priorities, and fund what is needed.  No more automatic increases to create phantom deficits!

8. Unlike many states, Minnesota’s education funding formula does not recognize the higher cost of labor in the metropolitan area. Metropolitan school districts face significantly higher labor costs than their rural counterparts. Do you support amending the education funding formula so it recognizes labor cost differentials?

Answer: No, kids should be treated equally across the board.

9. The state and federal governments fall woefully short of funding special education mandates. In the coming year, Minnesota school districts will be forced to spend over $500 million of funds meant for regular classroom instruction on mandated special education programs. Will you support fully funding the state special education formula?

Answer: Now here’s a question made for public school apologists.  Who would be against special education kids right?  If we get out of tenure and defined pensions and things like that we will HAVE MORE dough to spend on special education and won’t have to raise anyone’s taxes!

10. Will you be willing to vote against your caucus’ position if it is in the best interest of your local school district(s)?

Answer: Of course, but what exactly is RAS 281’s best interest?

11. Every year the education bill is the last or one of the last bills to be passed. Last year the legislature failed to pass an omnibus education bill at all. Will you be willing to demand that the education bill be the first budget bill passed in 2011?

Answer: How about if the majority party proposes a budget before the end of May?  It’s a but hard to talk about K-12 when we have no overall budget proposal.

12. If elected/re-elected, how will you work with your local school districts to address critical education funding and policy issues?

Answer: Listen to them; no more mandates and simply the formula!

Let’s see what the candidates say….

7 Responses to “Questions for Candidates”

  1. give2attain Says:

    3 Interesting Links:

    Voter’s Guide by MET School Districts

    Public Ed Finances 1992-93

    Public Ed Financing 98-99

    Public Ed Finances 2007-8

    Looks like the source of the questions and the sources of the data. I believe the data includes local funding. Good luck with the data mining… These are long and detailed documents.

    I would disagree with a few of your answers, however it is time for supper… Maybe later…

  2. 281 Exposed Says:

    Looks like bathroom reading to us and we’re not sure we trust any metropolitan education source. Clearly they have an agenda about Minnesota’s so-called commitment to education; keep the system the way it is and throw money at it. If it is all simply about funding then schools in Minneapolis, New York, and Los Angeles should be the best in the country. If the government would quit bailing out banks, building light rail, and illegally taking over the healthcare industry, maybe they’d have more money to spend on K-12.
    Some possible solutions to funding seem so obvious to us. Things like removing tenure, getting out of defined pensions, and eliminating some school districts could free up millions of dollars without raising anybody’s taxes one cent. Of course, getting out of defined pensions isn’t that simple (we have to deal with the Union) but do you think our school board has even tried?
    The most alarming things to us in regards to St. Paul are the proposals to take away our rights to a referendum and a discresionary levy. These two proposals would literally take decision making out of our hands. Did anyone who voted YES in 2008 give the school district an indefinate blank check? This is unacceptable and of course it’s being peddled by the candidates who are taking money from unions and have never worked in the private sector for one day in their lives (not to mention names Sandy Peterson and Lyndon Carlson).
    We know you don’t like vouchers yet somehow favor “competition.” We just respectfully don’t understand that view. Choosing between Osseo and Robbinsdale is not competition in any way. Both answer to Education Minnesota in our eyes. Having that as a “choice” is not good enough. The system will not change from within. As always feel free to give us your thoughts, and by the way your blog is our number one link! Just thought you should know!

  3. give2attain Says:

    Thank you for the compliment and I’ll continue working to deserve the praise… As for my confusing anti-voucher pro-competition opinions, I’ll try to post on it within the next few weeks…

    Now for my responses:
    1. Now, assuming that it is total spend. I return to my normal simplistic view. If you want average results, spend the average amount of money… If you want above average results, spend more…
    2. More on this at G2A later.
    3. I believe in the saying, “I learned everything that was important before age 6”. Since many Parents seem to be irresponsible, lazy, overwhelmed or uninformed, maybe the Nanny state is required to help kids in these families. If we don’t give these kids a hand, how will they have a better life than their parents? How will they be better parents than their own? Or do we leave them to their “kind of” Parents to repeat history?
    4. I do not think the State should be admistering an insurance plan, however I think they should buy all the insurance for all their employees… My employer has 100,000 employees and they use that large number to secure very competitive coverage. Would it make any sense if each division and subsidiary negotiated separately?
    5. I am not sure… If city, county and state elected officials can do it. Why not elected School Board members? Should city, county and state officials need voter approval ? Interesting thought…
    6. I agree. Stick with the terms of the referendum/contract. No changing in the middle…
    7. I truly believe it will take tax increases and spending cuts. Though I have no specific taxes or cuts in mind.
    8. I know they pay rural teachers less, as rural mechanics make less… I find it hard to believe the formula does not already account for this. Unless the lower population density adjusts for this… (ie less money in district)
    9. I agree with you, productivity and efficiency gains must be made across government and schools.
    10. Of course… I like to disagree with my friends…
    11. I like your answer.
    12. Listen and press for productivity and efficiency improvements. (ie pooling, shared services, automation, etc)

    Have a great weekend !!!

  4. concernedcitizen55441 Says:

    You completely miss the point on #9.

  5. give2attain Says:

    Just wondering, what is your perspective regarding “the point” on #9?

    I assume it is that the “State” and “Federal” laws require Special Education, therefore the State and Feds should fully fund it?

    I guess your response made me curious. The “State” and “Fed” laws mandate almost everything with regard to education. (ie who is taught, what they must learn, the school building reqts, teacher qualifications, etc) If they must pay for everything they mandate, then I assume you believe they should “fully fund” public education as a whole.

    My question then is, Why do folks always pick on the Special Ed cross subsidy? Are they trying to divide healthy/spec ed folks or take advantage of sympathy? Why not pick on Transportation surpluses or cross subsidies?

    I think the point that 281E and myself were trying to make was the the Fed, State and Local governments have given the Public Schools a big bucket of money and a list of expectations. If the school’s can significantly improve productivity and efficiency, their deficit will be smaller, the cross subsidy may be smaller and certainly it will be less important.

    Thanks for triggering the thought.

  6. daemon42 Says:

    Yeah I’m late on posting to this, but what can do. For too long has our federal government (and state governments) has a strangle hold on K-12 education. It’s getting closer on college as well now that private student loans are extinct. Our schools are used as passive indoctrination camps for socialism and collectivism. Who ever said the government should run/own public programs anyway? It’s a good start for government to set guidelines but individual communities should execute the plans. More, smaller, community based schools with either a voucher system or something else, doesn’t matter. the important part is to remove the bureaucracy and political power from our schools (including unions).

    1) Spend more to get better results hasn’t been working out for MN schools as far as I can tell … so your simplistic view appears to also be in error. Pumping money in to our current system yields little to no (sometimes even negative) returns. When you have large stacks of cash and power people barter with it and it attracts the proverbial flies. We need smaller and more distributed systems.

    3) Nanny state: Public education does not require a nanny state IMHO. We do have this nanny state in MN though because it uses public education and programs and a launch board. We, the voters/citizens, have ourselves to blame. Public education should still offer choice in the form of vouchers or other mechanisms so that “we the people” have a functional and direct way to indicate what we want. Politicians are not this mechanism because of the disconnect between them and the people.

    4) I agree that the government should not run an insurance plan/company/etc. and that it should provide equivalent benefits as the private sector has available; NOT BETTER, NOT MORE, but equivalent.

    5) NO governing body should have the power to give itself money without the expressed consent of the people they are taking it from. Anything else is taxation without representation.

    6) agreed

    7) The budget process needs to be simplified and audited. I’ve watched the budget hearings before and seen how money is hidden or not counted as revenue because of the budget phase they are in. It’s scandalous at best – My bet is that there is less of a budget crisis than we’re lead to believe. Secondly, just take the control of our schools away from the politicians and unions and I bet we’ll save a truck load of money. Good teachers will still be able to get jobs as teachers and more good teachers will want to teach because we’ll be educating the kids instead of indoctrinating them in to collectivism.

    8) Hell no. At $10K to $11K per student I think we’ve already made that adjustment on a functional level. Give ME that money and my wife will teach our kids better than any prison-like school could ever do. Or, we’ll find a school to do it for us and let the market ensure quality.

    9) Mandates kill. If we need the Special Ed programs then pay for them, otherwise don’t. They should not be separated from the rest of the budget IMHO because they’re all kids who need to learn. I understand special needs very well and I do think they can be integrated in to the whole school process much more effectively than they are.

    10) Always ready to disagree if the occasion calls for it. “The best interest of 281” to me means kids first; not teacher pensions for early retirement, not quick and easy tenure plans, not enhancing compensation lanes and steps and whatnot and most definitely NOT encouraging or perpetuating union control.

    11) first or last is irrelevant – it should be a part of the budget so if a budget passes then education is included. If no budget passes then our politicians need to stay after school to get it passed.

    12) Hear the parents and the students and work with unions and the legislators to REFORM (not add micro change laws to complicate matters, actually reform; reduce, reuse and recycle baby).

  7. give2attain Says:


    1. You imply that the schools are highly funded. I guess I would need to disagree given the many roles we expect from them. {ie educators, social services, medical services, Special Ed Services, English tutors, sports, arts, etc}(G2A Why Pay More)

    Of course you can teach “your” children more efficiently. I am assuming they speak English and you are an engaged Parent. As you can see, that’s not where the money goes. So, what should we do with all those other kids that are not so fortunate?

    Now you want to talk about well funded… Providence Academy, my neighbor down the road gets $15K to $20K per kid. And from what I understand, they only take the easy smart kids with motivated parents. (ie few High Risk / ELL & Special Ed) And if they have problems with you, out you go… Now that is well funded and their results show it.

    Now I agree that Public Education needs to work harder to eliminate waste. And I think that keeping funding down is a key way we can force them to make hard decisions. They seem to lose focus when funds are available. (ie like a kid in a candy store) So many cool ideas from Parents, Consultants, Teachers, etc, and they are so cool/fair… But highly funded, probably not.

    3. What does your answer have to do with preparing “ALL” kids for Kindergarten? How do you envision this happening? (And please think beyond your own children. I am truly curious.)

    5. Didn’t we elect the personnel to be our representatives? Or do the citizen’s need to vote on every tax in order to be represented? Which do we leave to them? Which do we put on the ballot? It is an interesting topic.

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