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Schools shortchanged

September 5, 2012
Fairmont Sentinel

To the Editor:

Now that Labor Day and another summer have passed us all too fast, I wish to welcome all the students, teachers and staff in the area back to another year at school.

Over the summer, I got the opportunity to spend many hours meeting with school superintendents, school boards, teachers and staff to discuss the issues facing all of the schools here in District 23A.

I was able to hear about the exciting things happening in the districts, such as United South Central and the plans for its new school building, increasing student enrollment at Jackson County Central, and the new ag program at Fairmont Area Schools.

I also heard about the many problems facing our rural schools here in southern Minnesota. Many districts are facing declining enrollment (due to a lack of economic activity that keeps families in our area), severe local budget issues caused by a lack of consistency in the money the state provides to our local school districts, and skyrocketing use of local levies and increased property taxes to fund services and plug budgetary holes because of reductions in state funding.

So while our schools, teachers, staff and students are doing an excellent job, they are working under a system that isn't sustainable. We can't keep treating schools like the state's credit card to balance a budget. We can't keep demonizing teachers and staff who are working hard everyday under increasing mandates and decreasing funding. We can't expect Minnesota to continue to rank No. 1 in education when the system has been devalued and defunded time and time again.

Like everything in this world, having good schools takes hard work by all the people involved. Schools, and especially rural schools, are the heart of their community. And when the heart is in trouble or starts to weaken, the rest of the body is soon to follow. We must make sure that our schools stay the vibrant places of learning they are, and we can't become complacent. The hard work must continue, and the state needs to again pick up the share of the burden it has dropped in the last two years.

Kevin Labenz

Democratic candidate

for the Minnesota House

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