The political climate in Minnesota right now is toxic, especially around the issue of education. The legislature recently passed it's omnibus spending bill, a bill with deep cuts and many changes to public education. These cuts and changes, should they become law, would directly effect the district I currently work for in a big way as much of our funding comes from an item targeted by Republicans for cuts: integration revenue. Needless to say, between this and the high stakes testing that is at our doorstep things are not very pleasant around the office.
Another thing in the cross hairs of the Republican controlled House and Senate is funding for the Minnesota Department of Education. In recent testimony regarding the House version of the bill, Commissioner Dr. Brenda Cassellius had the following testimony:
This was eye opening for me in a few ways. First, I did not realize that the MDE was already 60% federally funded. This, despite the fact that most of our school funding comes from state revenue from property taxes and only a small percentage of funding for Title I programs and federal grants comes from the fed means that most of the oversight of how we spend our education dollars and how we educate our kids is done...federally. So, if these cuts to MDE find their way into the final bill, which I don't think they will at these numbers at least, then lets do the math:
This bill will affect MDE’s ability to properly account for and manage public money and hold other education entities accountable, both academically and financially.
· $11.25m cut in this biennium represents a 34% cut below the base state appropriation and could eliminate 50 of approx. 200 state funded employees. As we testified at an earlier hearing, the agency is already 60% federally funded because of years of cuts to the agency. A reduction of this nature in the agency’s state workforce would seriously hamper our work.
· If we add in the unfunded mandates in this bill for new tests, Q Comp expansion, early graduation scholarships, and teacher and principal evaluation proposals, the real cut to MDE is even greater - and our ability to deliver on our promise of better support to school more severely diminished
50/200=25% cut in current funding to MDE from the state. If 200 employees currently represent 40% of MDE staff then:
40/100=200/total number of current MDE employees
total number of current MDE employees=500
total number of federally funded MDE employees=300
now, with the cuts,
% of state funded MDE employees/100=150/450
% of state funded MDE employees=33%
which means that now 66% or 2/3 of oversight of how Minnesota spends it's own state's tax money on public education will be overseen by federally-funded employees. People tend in their jobs to be accountable to those who are funding their positions. These people at the MDE would then be accountable to the federal government and not the people of Minnesota. This seems to me like it is an open door policy for the deployment of national standards and Common Core Curriculum.
What boggles my mind is that the same party that is quick to stand up for state's rights and smaller federal government is so quick here to increase the influence of the federal government in our pubic schools.
The problem with the tenth amendment is that it is so vague. It's language opens it up for great interpretation, as do many of the other amendments in the U.S. Constitution. I guess this is why the party of No can evoke it when trying to deny health care coverage to residents of the state and at the same time sit back and let their schools be taken over by the federal government and federal policies. Seems like a double standard to me.