Several members of the House DFL caucus—including Richfield representatives Reps. and and —came to Tuesday afternoon to meet with teachers, administrators and community members about the State of Minnesota’s education system, funding and education reform. Richfield was the last stop on a DFL “roundtable tour” of the state, which included trips to Northfield and Grand Rapids.
The tour came after a special session compromise to raise school funding by $50 per student, per year in the wake of Minnesota’s budget crisis. But DFLers said $50 per student does not provide enough funding to counteract inflation and rising costs and that schools are having to cut costs despite the small funding hike.
“Don’t pat yourself on the back too much,” said Rep. Mindy Greiling of Roseville.
Greiling said that the superintendents the DFLers talked to at the Willmar and MACCRAY school districts said the $50 per pupil funding increase was not even enough to cover their districts’ rise in heating costs.
“We like to brag that all of our students are above average,” Greiling said. “But our funding certainly is not.”
said the district’s protracted battle with stagnant funding has necessitated a faculty reduction of 17 teachers in the past year.
“We only have 4,000 students,” he said. “We’ve reduced everywhere we possibly can: We’ve turned the heat down, we’ve extended our bus routes, we’ve reduced travel, we’ve eliminated training and on and on and on and on, but we got to the point this year where the vast majority of our cuts had to be teachers, and we’ve raised our class size by an average of three.”
There was also discussion of the importance of fully funding early childhood education, ESL classes and programs for special needs students. Rep. Nora Slawik of Maplewood said she *could easily see someone or a group pursuing lawsuit to force the issue of increased funding.
“Education is an investment in human capital,” she said. “It’s the best investment we can make. So are we going to invest in that Vikings stadium or are we going to invest in little kids?”
Mary Stanton, a Richfield teacher, told the DFLers that her classrooms are so crowded that students tell her they can’t focus because there’s no space.
“For French, I have barely a minute for each student in the class to teach a new language,” she said.
Greiling was only half joking when she asked her colleagues if they knew, “according to the fire marshal,” how many children are allowed to be in a classroom.
“I think we should look into this and see if we can declare our schools unsafe,” she said.
Editor's Note: We have clarified Rep. Slawik's comment on a potential lawsuit stemming from not enough funding.