More than 50 teachers, parents and administrators from the Brainerd School District drove to the State Capitol in St. Paul Monday to rally against Gov. Jesse Ventura's proposed education spending plan.
More than 1,000 people from around the state attended the morning rally sponsored by the Alliance for Student Achievement, a coalition of education groups. Some people then stayed in the afternoon to discuss the proposed budget with area legislators.
Kathy Hegstrom, union president of the Brainerd United Educators, said they asked legislators to ask Ventura, who was not present, to reconsider his budget proposal and to designate more money for education.
"Education must be a top priority and the funding is inadequate in the proposed budget," she said.
The theme of the event was to "Keep Minnesota Smart: Don't Shortchange Our Students." This statement was on many signs and buttons scattered around the Capitol.
Some teachers in Brainerd who attended included Brian Wallace, Kathy Miller, Brian Stark and Tim Edinger. School officials attending included Jerry Walseth, superintendent; Gary Phillips, assistant superintendent; Steve Dickinson, business manager; and Kent Montgomery, school board member.
There were also representatives from Pillager, Pequot Lakes, Crosby-Ironton and Little Falls school districts at the event, Hegstrom said.
Hegstrom said the Brainerd group was united in its effort to express the concern for education funding. She said she was pleased with the number of parents and teachers who attended. Hegstrom said it was important for parents to express their opinions, which may carry greater weight with legislators than only having teachers and administrators at the rally.
Phillips agreed and said the parents, the general public, are the ones who can make a difference. He said what he saw Monday was very encouraging.
"We were touching base with the legislators and letting them know that education is more important than a rebate and that the governor needs to reanalyze his budget," Phillips said. "Legislators know you can't have zero funding.
The governor's proposed state budget plan weaves tax cuts with modest spending increases, proposes freezing the per-pupil general education funding formula in 2001-02 and boosting it a total of about $65 million in 2002-03.
Education Minnesota, the state's teachers' union, said its estimates show that under the governor's scenario, three-fourths of K-12 school districts in the state would face budget shortfalls in the next biennium. The union is promoting a $300 per pupil increase, or about $300 million statewide, for each year of the biennium, a figure that represents a 3 percent inflationary increase.
Legislative leaders in the House and Senate expect to propose larger appropriations than the governor has, but have yet to release specifics.
The Brainerd School District is hosting a public education funding meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday at Mississippi Horizons. Legislative representatives from District 12 will attend the meeting. Concerned citizens, parents, students and area school district staff members are encouraged to attend.
"This meeting is part two of the rally," said Hegstrom.
(This story includes information from the Star Tribune.)
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