Ex-teacher Gov. Walz needs to hold the line, at least, on supporting public schools
I’ll note at the outset that when Tim Walz was elected governor I was quite concerned that, based on his record in the U.S. House as what’s generally called a “moderate” (there’s a milquetoast term, in contemporary politics), he would be willing to give away far too much to cut deals with legislative Republicans. I characterize it as a very pleasant surprise that that hasn’t happened. Nor does he appear to have been affected at all by the Party of Trumpers’ puerile ankle-biting, in the current context. All that having been said:
Governor Tim Walz (on May 5) issued the following statement in response to the updated 2020 budget forecast:
“Today’s budget outlook confirms what we suspected: COVID-19 will badly damage Minnesota’s economy.”
“As I said during my State of the State address, there is a long winter ahead. COVID-19 is upending life as we know it—and our economy will not be spared.”
“This will mean shared sacrifice among all of us. Hard decisions will be made.”
I don’t claim to know what’s going to happen, but it’s certainly far from unlikely that the effects of the Trump Crash will be at least as deep and lasting as those of the Great Republican Recession. And what happened with education spending then is a bad, bad precedent.
But instead of rushing to rescue schools from financial calamity, many government leaders—including U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos—are using the pandemic to advance their personal agendas, whether it’s to privatize public education or balance budgets on the backs of school kids.
The predicted shortfalls will compound harm that’s been done to a public education system already in financial trauma.
Public schools haven’t fully recovered from the beating they took as a result of the Great Recession, argues a new report from the Albert Shanker Institute, a research center affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. The downturn in the nation’s economy that started in 2007 hit schools hardest in 2009 to 2011, after states had slashed education budgets and aid that came from the federal stimulus package had run out. The results were “fewer teachers and support staff, larger classes, and a narrower array of academic and extracurricular programs,” the report explains.
For what’s been going on in Minnesota, during the last couple of decades, click here. The end of that article, from 2018, referenced possibilities for the 2019 legislative session. It passed a 2% increase, which was of course far better than nothing but did not change the long-term trend.
With taxpayers more deeply concerned about their own finances, school levies are going to get harder to pass. Especially in some outstate districts where it’s already way too hard as it is.
Moreover, despite the heroic efforts of teachers and others, distance learning is probably not working out all that well, at least not for most. There will be a lot of catching up to do.
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