All Minnesotans deserve access to a great education — it shouldn’t matter what school district they live in, and it shouldn’t cause an ever-increasing burden on local property taxpayers. During the 2019 legislative session, my colleagues in the House and I sought to invest in education while reducing the unsustainable increases in property taxes.

Years of under-investment at the state level have meant that local school districts have been forced to go to voters year after year, holding referendums and hoping that their community will vote for a property tax increase to avoid having to lay off teachers or cut programming.

On average, local districts currently provide 27% of their own funding, the state pays roughly two-thirds, and the federal government pays 6%. The state’s share has significantly decreased since it made a 75% commitment in the early 2000s, while costs, especially for special education and the per-pupil cost of delivering services, have increased.

On Nov. 5, more than 40 school districts across the state will be asking voters for more funding, including the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage district. The more we localize support for education, the further we exacerbate inequality across the state, creating a patchwork of haves and have-nots.

Minnesota has long been a leader in education — we should continue to set high standards and back them up by providing teachers and students across the state with reliable, sustainable funding across the state.

During this year’s legislative session, I fought to ensure that every student in our community receives a fully-funded education that will prepare them to participate meaningfully in our economy. Despite resistance from the current Senate majority, we approved a 2% funding increase per-student for each of the next two years, we protected voluntary pre-K for our youngest learners, and we addressed the rapidly increasing cost of special education in school budgets.

But I know we have a long way to go. On Oct. 12, I hosted a community conversation focused on education. I heard concerns about our possible school closures; larger class sizes meaning students wouldn’t get the individual attention needed to help them thrive; and about the possibility of losing programming that helps students gain real-world experience.

We should set all our children up for success. Fully funding education is key to giving all children the stepping stones they need to succeed in and out of the classroom.

Our children are the future of our state. Investing in them is setting our state up for future success. If we are going to tackle the achievement gap in our state, we need to make sure every child starts their education off with the tools they need to be productive and successful in school.

State Rep. Hunter Cantrell is a Democrat representing District 56A, which covers Savage and part of Burnsville. He can be reached at 651-296-4212 or rep.hunter.cantrell@house.mn.

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