Spectrum: Joe Graba on school district budget squeeze

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On this regional public affairs program, Joe Graba, Deputy Commissioner of Education for the State of Minnesota, talks to Dan Olson about school budget. Graba also answers listener questions.

Read the Text Transcription of the Audio.

The time is 10. Good morning. I'm Dan Olson in St. Paul. I guess this morning is Joe Graber former state legislator now working in the Minnesota Department of Education as a Deputy Commissioner and a former biology teacher from Wadena in central Minnesota all of those elements of mr. Grab his background are important for our conversation today, which is about the financial problems being faced by many school districts around the Minnesota Constitution says that the legislature shall provide a general and uniform system of public schools public education in this country is the responsibilities of state government for most of its pain all of the states, except Hawaii have delegated the operation of schools to local school districts for the school administration and the elected School Board run the show the local residents pay for schools operations with the local property tax, which is supplemented by some state and federal money.Public education has changed rather dramatically in the past few years many more people are being educated and a lot more money is being spent. In terms of people public elementary and secondary education is one of the largest Enterprises in Minnesota involving about 25% of the state's population in about 6% of the state's Workforce those percentages break down into the following numbers over 53,000 professionals serving about 863000 students. And in terms of money the state pays for almost two-thirds of the elementary and secondary education cost a total of about 900 million dollars a year the job of planning how to educate our state's younger residents was summed up pretty well in one word some years ago. That word was growth many Suburban Urban and some rural districts had increasing numbers of students that required more buildings and teachers, but the situation has changed rather dramatically in some districts student enrollment has declined in some areas. The cost of educating students has increased and state law has changed some of the ground rules to The problems that districts face are diverse declining enrollments as we mentioned has forced some districts, especially some Twin Cities Suburban districts to cut District budgets by hundreds of thousands of dollars, which means fewer staff people and in many cases cutbacks and educational activities, the problem facing some rural districts is a bit different Farmland prices are increasing rapidly. So rapidly that the local taxes generating more money than supplied by state age the schools which means the districts are not eligible for the state will have a bit more on that later. We've invited Joe Craven to discuss some of these matters and perhaps help us understand what all this means to States citizens on student will be taking questions from listeners in a few minutes. First of all job. I was hoping you could give us a summary of some of the factors that have led to the current situation especially for mini Suburban Twin City school districts where it is necessary for administrators and citizens to cut the District budget What's led up to that? Then I think the major factor that is causing the financial squeeze in school districts is in fact the declining enrollment and it really doesn't necessitate a declining enrollment in order to create the situation simply a level enrollment would cause the same sort of problems only to a lesser degree. A school districts were growing in the past 15 years. They consistently we're hiring new teachers and new teachers come in at the bottom of the salary schedule generally and they make a man with a minimal education requirement. I stabilized enrollment means that fewer new teachers are hired and consequently the game experience for years and salary schedules. Of course Pay Teachers of higher incomes for increased experience in addition to the app that teachers after they've been on a job but you're too generally go back and get Advanced degrees which also increases our income and that has led to the problem. The declining enrollment aspects of just a little bit serious of severe situation and that with declining enrollment teachers are being laid off and they're laid off at the bottom of the salary schedule the cheapest teachers there for laid off and the school districts end up with Assistant lead older staff better-educated staffs and therefore more expensive that in addition to that some more some more factors that though that I'd like to mention as a a couple of recently establish priorities and education for years this date and many states in the nation have ignored the basic rights of handicapped children and within the last six or seven years are stated made a massive effort to bring quality education to the handicapped children that's generally referred to a special education and special education cost of Simply skyrocketed in the states in the last 7 years. Another area is the secondary vocational aspect. I don't believe that most Educators would argue with the fact that our educational system is still aim disproportionately at the College Bound student. And the state and local districts have been attempting to get more vocational education into the system in order to provide some basic exploratory. Vocational courses are the young people both of those two priorities of added substantially to the car. We've had additional aspects of Frances court case court cases review revolving around the rights of a girls to athletica opportunities. And of course of that has additionally added to the expenditures of local school district that you mentioned the fact that teacher salaries are increasingly almost every year and that I think is the question in the front of many people's mind. How much do increasing teacher salaries contribute to Rising school cost? We have done. However some recent research. It's fairly preliminary at this point, but the indications are that Minnesota is following a national Trend in education and that National Trend indicates that a smaller percentage of the instructional expenditure is going for salaries today than was the case to five or ten years ago. Now that sort of contrary to what most people believe it's contrary to what most people in state government thought was the case but there is a national Trend that indicates that that salaries and education are taking a smaller percentage of the total expenditure than they did several years ago. Which I think in the case simply that whole host of 5th fixed costs are escalating at a more rapid rate than salary fixed cost to me in like go energy for example is more expensive textbooks. That's right. Supply expenditures maintenance expenditures, the energy a situation obviously has created them know we mentioned that a number of districts, especially Suburban districts in the Twin Cities are having to cut their budgets because of the tougher National situation. What does that mean? Does that mean that the quality of the education in those districts is declining that there are many fewer educational opportunities for the stew. Yes. I think there is none of you know, they're in a question but what the money of the especially the inner ring suburbs have been forced to cut back on programs that generally means that there are fewer choices left of those children who are coming up to the system. That is I think the reality of declining enrollment because of the declining number of children in the schools. It's simply gets inefficient to offer some courses because they are offered at less than maximum capacity and that of course forces the school district to trim those programs. What are some of the things that are being trimmed other than the number of extracurricular activity. Wow, that is very it varies tremendously all over the state there. I believe has been some trimming of Junior High athletic programs. And there have there has been a substantial trimming in in specially courses language courses for instance and some specialty music courses and and so on drama perhaps but it's very difficult to get an accurate understanding. Finding Anna and to summarize it because what is trimmed and it varies from one school district another depending on the desires of the local people. I want to turn for a minute to some of the legislative proposals that have been put into the mill the Capitol in st. Paul or proposals that may be made in the coming days. In fact the perfect in his budget message to the legislature a few days ago, but was an increase in the per-pupil expenditure from about $960 what it is right now to about $1,025 will that help ease the budget situation in any way? Oh, yes. I think it will but I've been saying for several months now is that there is no total solution to this problem other than cutbacks. I have seen some pretty accurate projections that indicate that the legislature would have to fund the foundation aid program at Double. The cost of living in order to prevent some program cutbacks and some of the inner ring suburbs now, I know and I believe anybody that studied to school Finance system knows that the legislature is not going to find that formula a double the cost of living and consequently, I increase will decrease the amount of pain that's experience in school district. I've been telling people that is not going to eliminate the paint one of the questions that is in the front of some people's minds perhaps not everyone is well, first of all, maybe we better back up for a minute. You mentioned Foundation Aid formula. This might be a good time for some definition. What is this Foundation Aid formula you talked about and how does this formula to determine? What is spent on education in the various districts? Okay. The foundation made formula is the formula that the state uses to distribute the bulk of its Aid to school districts and the foundation made for Interacts with local property wealth but that the combination of the foundation Aid and the local Levy the 29 Mills as it exists now is the fun that that finances the general operation of the school district the salaries they Supply the maintenance expenditures except for major maintenance buildings and song. Okay. Now I want to return in a few minutes to some other details regarding that formula. But the second question I had regarding your statement that legislatures are reluctant to increase the expenditure for the foundation. Aid formula also seems to be reflective of a general unwillingness among many people to simply spend more money on education. Do you think that's an accurate reflection? And if so, why are people unwilling to spend more money for education? Do you think well, I I don't want to imply that the legislature is unwilling to increase the foundation made formula. I don't believe that there's any question in the minds of the legislators that it has to be increased at least as much as the cost of living. In fact, the recommendations a governor perpich is made to the legislature would be for increases in the poor pupil unit amount somewhat above the PreCheck projected increases in the cost of living. And so I think it's I believe it's fair to say that the legislature understands to at least some degree the financial squeeze on School District, but there are a lot of people who are aware of the fact that we have fewer kids in our schools today than we had five years ago. And of course it gets difficult to consistently put more money into the educational program when in fact we have fewer children. Well, where does the amount of money we spend on educating our state's young people for example compare. How does it compare with the amount of money? We spend on other activities, for example of Highways highways Highway construction. Of course, it is funded exclusively out of the gasoline tax and that's a dedicated tax under our constitution, but there isn't any question, but what there's been increased priority selection required at the state government level. Because a whole host of issues have developed in the recent years that that demands state revenue legislators who served in the state legislature in the 60s did not deal with Reserve mining issues did not deal with Pollution Control environmental problems did not have housing projects at the state level and so on and so there are increased demands. I didn't create competition and in the legislative process for state revenue Now as I understand there is a referendum provision in state law that permits a local school board to hold a special election to try increase the local Millwright Levi up District are many Twin Cities area District using this device to try to solve their budget problems while there are a variety of Twin City districts that have run the referendum and but not a very high percentage of them have passed it. I believe at the last tally there were a hundred districts gives me a hundred referenda that had been running the state and 61 of them had passed but the the proportion of those that have been in the Twin City area is relatively small generally speaking the school districts where the referendum is the survival issue generally in the western and southern and Northwestern areas that have high valuation. Ragland was extremely severe declining enrollments have passed them but they're generally very small districts. And as I mentioned at the beginning of the program, we may be able to talk about some fairly interesting case studies that some rural school districts face in terms of paying for their educational cost before we get to that though. I want to return to this discussion about your opinion as to what you think people feel about the at the educational process. I know many are concerned about how the tax dollars are being used for Education. Maybe this is one of the reasons more people are encouraging Educators to return to teaching the basics as they call it. Is it also a factor do you think in what has been called minimal competency testing and maybe you should describe what that's about. Well, I am there is let me first of all say that the fewer young people in the schools. I think means that we have fewer people in the in the population who are vitally interested in the educational program. We have fewer parents for instance today than we had five years ago and consequently fewer voters who are vitally interested in the quality of Education Program. Secondly, I believe that we have a declining faith in the population in education and I'll minnesotans generally still have more faith and education than do most of populations in the United States, but I believe that that faith is declining another and I'd like to sum it up and simply say that the fewer people took today view education as a pathway to the good life than was the case 5 years ago and the combination of the of the Do our parents and that declining faith is making it more difficult to finance some of the programs in our schools and but despite the fact that they may not do it as the path to the good life a logger. I sense a growing concern that if they're going to send their children to school. They definitely want their children to come out of the school being able to read right knowing the basic skills. And is this the feeling that is one of the moving force is behind the call for standardized testing or minimal competency testing? Yes. I I think that's fairly accurate assessment and I I guess I'm inclined to think that we had no good reason to expect that we could add all of the things into the schools that we have added in the last 15 years without somehow diluting some of our efforts towards the basics. For years the schools have sort of been the catch-all for for studying and hope hopefully solving a whole host of social ills drug education and driver's education and social activities that normally were not part of the responsibility of the educational community that those things have been dumped in the schools. I don't believe it's reasonable that we should expect that that would not lead to some dilution of what we now refer to as the basic. There has there is concern about the children not learning to read as well. There is concern about them not being able to write and do the basic sorts of things that we normally think school will talk to Duke and we have had legislation introduced into this legislative session that would mandate that's children achieve certain levels before they pass on to the next great that sort of topic I think is going to get a lot of discussion in this legislative session recently. The department has come up with a set of minimum standards that would be requirements on school districts and they have not been there not rules and regulations yet, but they're on our discussion and it's so it is difficult at this time because any set of minimum standards has financial implications for school district and consequently at at the to impose those at the same time that the school districts are already having severe financial problem may be an impossibility what kinds of financial So you talkin about you? Well, one of the requirements for instance is a requirement that every child have available to them a certain number of course offerings, you know in a secondary school system many of the smaller school districts in the state simply do not have that that those offering in addition to these minimum standards and if they're going to mean anything have to be a minimum opportunities for children and while any school system might offer those opportunities to be able to guarantee anyone individual child that they can get into those opportunities regardless of scheduling problem has severe financial implications for the school district and quite apart from that. Do you think that the minimum competency testing or the standardized test results of will tell us anything about whether or not the child is receiving the basic skills? Well, yes, I think that the you know, it depends on the instrument that she was obviously if the if the right entrant instruments are used obviously we can judge whether or not the child is is moving in the right direction. That's true with respect to at least a few basic skills that were interested in Reading us is very measurable. Mathematics is very measurable. However, if one wants to try to analyze the the commitment that that the educational system is is developing and young people concerning the environment that's totally different and it's very difficult for instance to measure how well the schools are teaching our young people to be concerned about energy conservation. And so when you get into that don't mean it's pretty difficult to accurately measure we're talkin with Joe grab a Deputy Commissioner of Education from the Minnesota Department of Education a former schoolteacher biology teacher and a former state legislator. Time now about 21 minutes after 10 will open our phone lines now for callers who want to pose questions to mister Graber in the Twin Cities listening area 2 9 1 1 2 2 2 2 9 1 1 2 2 2 for listeners outside the Twin Cities were listening to mr. Grey, but you can call us toll-free at one 800-652-9700 that number again is one 800-652-9700 and we will wait just a moment for some calls to come in. There is one question that I wanted to return to for a moment show that is sort of a thought question and it may be a bit longer than were able to handle and even the 40 minutes remaining but is it your opinion that despite the financial crisis that many Twin Cities Suburban districts face, for example that the quality of education is generally good. Oh, yes. I don't believe that there's any question but like Menace, Minnesota. Still provides some of the highest quality education in the United States in my job as a legislator. And now it's Deputy Commissioner. I have the opportunity to visit with a lot of people from other states concerned with this very issue and many states throughout this country would gladly trade positions with the state of Minnesota to just give you a quick example South Dakota for instance relies heavily on property taxes to run a school system and the Minnesota we have only the real estate tax not the personal property tax anymore. So I recently visited with the chairman of the Senate finance committee from South Dakota and the because of the drought many of the farmers in South Dakota been forced to sell off large percentages of their cattle those cattle under the personal property tax system are part of the tax base and consequently those school districts are not going to have near the top. Text base that the legislature thought they would when they carved out the school aid Formula 2 years ago that legislature now has to go in and react to that lost tax base in some school districts. The personal property tax base has been reduced by 70% So they have severe financial problem. We haven't closed any schools in Minnesota as a result of our finance system. Ohio has more going to have Washington. The state of Washington is having more severe problems than we are. Now, we haven't touched on a lot of issues. We have not for example talked about the situation that the Saint Paul and Minneapolis school districts face. We have not talked about the proposal to consolidate some school districts administratively, but we'll be getting to those. However, our first caller is on the line right now. Go ahead. Mr. Grey buzz listening to your question. Until your guesses that I was wondering whether the assertion that there are too many suburbs in the area is one of the reasons why the schools aren't referring so well. Well, I don't believe that I made that assertion but I know that that is an assertion that has been made and that is a Kursi the major motivation behind the recently discussed the consolidation legislation generally speaking, I believe and we can get Minneapolis and st. Paul into this example that the smaller the unit of the educational system. The more difficult it is to deal with declining enrollments. That is one of the reasons why the decline is not hurt the educational program in Minneapolis. And st. Paul to the degree that it has in other parts of the state including the suburbs and we have school districts for instance in rural Minnesota where we have three or four hundred children K through 12 and their capacity to react to declining enrollment is almost nil. You could you have to have a physics teacher you have to have an English teacher and senior high school and when you get smaller Are smaller numbers of children, you simply cannot cut staff in direct proportion of that decline. So generally speaking the flexibility that larger units provide makes it easier for them to react to declining enrollment and that we may want to return to a point of that question in a little bit. We have another caller on the line right now. We don't I'll give out the numbers again 2 9 1 1 2 2 2 in the Twin Cities listening area and for outside listeners one 806-529-7000. There was a point in that question that we may want to cover a bit more. There's been some concern I guess among Suburban residents in the Twin Cities that they think it might be wise to share school facilities with the neighboring suburb and yet they don't exactly want to do that because they want to maintain local control. I'm not sure I understood the point of the callers question, but Possible that the the Suburban areas have have established their boundaries in such a way that it's just not efficient for public education. I don't think of any questions let that the case Middle School District boundaries were developed during the growth area growth era and they do not follow and logical pattern. We have school districts in in the metropolitan areas that are fast growth district and they will border on another District which is a rapidly declining district. And so we have one school district consistently trying to build new buildings because it's a fast growth district for 5 miles away. We have a district declining with empty buildings are buildings are under under maximum utilization. And of course that is one of the efficiencies that can be achieved through larger administrative. You. Was that something that should have occurred in other words. 10 years ago in public education was growing rapidly in the school district. Saw the need to build more buildings. Do we have a plan now on a Statewide basis or a local basis? Whereby school district officials can look into the future a bit farther ahead into the future and see that they'll be able to tailor their planning more carefully or where I guess I would tell you that I'm not very pleased with our present capabilities as far as forecasting. We're working hard on developing that capacity within our department of education. But you know, I generally would say that whether or not our existing system is good is an open question. There is a lot to be said for local control and are at the small of the unit of course of the greater the degree of participation by local people and but there are any efficiencies and the people frankly are going to have to decide Whether they want tolerate the any efficiencies of smaller districts as a trade-off against having increased local control what we have another caller on the line. Go ahead. Mr. Grey bugs listening to your question. I'm an educator in Buffalo Minnesota and I are the same people that are urging a proliferation of extracurricular athletic programs in our school system, and I'm wondering if there's anything in your Department of Education that can control number of new extra curricular offerings in a school district or fat is strictly left to local control. Well with the exception of the existing legislation and with the exception of Cape court cases that require equal opportunities for girls. There is no mandate at the state level dealing with extracurricular activities. That is the local consideration and there has been obviously a proliferation of extracurricular activities. I would lump that into the same general expectations that have been put on to the school systems in the last 15 years the physical fitness as you wasn't it is an issue as well as the recreational opportunities for young people and one within a scaling down. Like we're facing in our educational system. I suspect that a lot of those extra curricular activities will come under severe scrutiny in those local board. But are you saying that's an issue that the Local District people have to parcel out in the state doesn't have much to say About that that's right to that sort of decision has been left up to the local board. We have another caller on the line. Go ahead. Mr. Grave. I was listening to your question questions that in order to deal with the education financing crisis within the next few years. The legislature is going to have to redefine and restructure the foundation Aid formula. I wonder if you have any idea what kind of a restructuring that might take and if you just have any ideas about possibilities at the legislature my Well, let me say first of all that there is a lot of discussion about the existing system of financing schools. Minnesota launched itself on Equalization attempt in the 1971 legislative session that was prior to some of the major court cases that have come down demanding that the amount of property wells in a school district not severely affect the educational opportunity of the young people. Recently there have been additional court cases in a California just in the last 2 or 3 weeks got a court case down mandating that they revise their Finance system. So Minnesota is finance system. Generally, I believe is aimed in the right direction. Now. I very frankly tell people that there is nothing seriously wrong with our existing system that another 50 million dollars a year wouldn't solve the problem is not necessarily in the method of Distributing Revenue. It's simply in our our problem exists in our inability to react to this declining enrollment. I think that was the same problems would exist with any formula. Now there are a host of of Minor Adjustments that could be made to our existing formula to deal with specific problems created by declining and I know Francis is this legislature is going to be looking at a staff 8 school district with declining enrollment as I mentioned earlier have highly experienced that and there's been discussion. God creating a factor in the foundation made formula put more money into school districts that have highly experienced that the same thing is true with the education level of teachers. Now that's an additional factor that could be put into the formula. Do you know our existing formula to channel more money into school districts that have Highly Educated staff. I know also that this legislature will be looking at a sparsity factor in the in the formula. We do have a few school districts in the state that are getting smaller because of declining enrollments, but the areas that the geography is so large that they cannot be reasonably expected to consolidate and so some sort of adjustment. I believe will have to be made there but generally speaking I believe that will be dealing with alterations in the existing system rather than a totally new system to finance. Well, I'm going to Prevail on the callers who are waiting to ask questions of you. Mr. Grey before 11. I can answer the question that may relate to what you just said you talked about consolidation and I am reminded that the state legislator Gerald Anderson has proposed that the state school districts be Consolidated into 92 countywide administrative districts. And I wonder if you could give a little background on that and describe whether or not one you think that's going to save any money or to whether or not that's going to help the quality of Education any extremely difficult to give accurate answers to those questions. I know that Senator Anderson has been working on this issue for number of years, Senator Anderson has the has been the chairman of the Senate the school-age subcommittee for the past 4 years and understands the finance system in our schools very well. There are some states that have countywide districts of France and Florida has a population. I believe close to three times out of Minnesota and has 67 school districts. They have 67 counties and the counties have school boards and they operate the educational program. The alarm Mansion earlier the larger the unit to Greater the degree of flexibility. If for instance we could combine Rosso skism Burnsville, Bloomington Burnsville as it is a growing District Bloomington of declining District the building requirements from those two districts combine would be less than the building requirements for those two districts separate and the same is true with respect to staff the Burnsville system has been growing and consequently has been hiring new staff. The Bloomington district has been declining and consequently trimming staff and soul. I believe the greatest savings is in the flexibility, but there is of course a cost not in financial terms would have cost in terms of local control. And so those are the two things that I believe this legislature is going to have to try to balance up. All right. Now I want to thank the caller who is on the line for waiting and go ahead mr. Grave and I was listening to your question. Well, yes, I I I do think that we did as you know, the commissioner of education has recommended the four-day week and that was Don and view of the severity of the energy situation as we viewed it about the 10 days ago. I am extremely concerned that that we are not doing enough to ease this fine at or this energy crisis. I am extremely concerned that if the weather continues as it is today that we're going to see widespread closings of schools and and businesses and industries that are going to is going to lead to unemployment and a lot of economic dislocation. We were hopeful that by adding a day to the an hour or two each school day and going to four days. Good easy energy situation and have the public sector doing a substantial amount of energy savings. Now, I know that that's disruptive. I know that many people disagree with that issue. But what we've seen happening on the East Coast I believe is a lot more severe than what we suggested Minnesota. Just a quick question Joe. Do you have any idea how much of a financial crunch this says severe cold weather is putting on some select the districts around the Twin Cities area. For example, no, we don't get very good information on a short-term basis from school districts as to what they're paying for energy. We do know however that school districts are doing an excellent job of conserving energy the information that we gather on an annual basis indicates that they have made substantial a conservation efforts since the 1973 crisis our department is I'm working closely with the plant managers for instance from various school districts. In fact, just last week we had some of our people out holding energy conservation seminars for the custodial staff and schools have been very very good about employing conservation Majors. All right into our next caller. Thank you for wedding. And mr. Grey bone. I was listening to your question. My question is who determines the content of the school programs in my that was my question is, it is at the turn of the century schools have cut out the classics and install service preschool ISM results. Students don't really have an appreciation of the past and solicit the country later is bound to repeat the mistakes of the past because of lack of Education. Generally speaking, and I'm not sure I know what you mean by the content if we're if we're discussing the course offerings that is to a large extent the decision of the local school board and local school administration. There are some basic requirements for schools that exist in the State Board of Education regulations and in the state law and also more recently the federal government has enacted some requirement, but generally the vast majority of program offerings that are in schools are there because of local decisions on in the path now if we're talking about what is taught specifically in a specific course that generally is the decision of the actual teacher Although the Administration has some authority to influence what the teacher actually teaches once the course is offered. How do you react to go to the comment that the schools are more oriented towards the trade school ISM education as the questioner put it. Well there has been a the conscious attempt on the part of state and federal governments to get increased vocational training indoor schools. There has my personal opinion that for years schools have been run by college graduates and taught by college graduates, and I was one of those and and consequently a disproportionate amount of the educational opportunities offered to children were aimed towards those who were college-bound and we've been attempting to get more of the vocational a spec. End of the system so that young people have a better understanding of what it's like for instance to be an auto mechanic or a or a carpenter or electrician. Good. Go ahead. Mr. Greg was listening to your question. I receive my high school in Ireland. So I did not go through the system here, but then let me say that I'm too stressed with a casual way in which you dismissed a question about teaching a fundamentals here. I have heard a similar sort of Dismissals by others high school officials were they make the statement to the effect that 95% of the high school seniors can pass functional literacy test to me. This is this is a statement of failure and yet I hear people making these statements in a manner that sort of indicates Pride. I have encountered young man who are obviously intelligent and yet are totally unable to communicate because they can't write or spell And it seems to me that this has got to be the prime rate total at issue that has to be dealt with in the high school systems. I respect the fact that there's a lot of flexibility in the high school, but based on my observations from the outside and the fact that I got young children who are going to be going to high schools. I certainly am This is the biggest concern that I have in my mind and I like you too to address that more totality. If you could please sign I am sorry if I appeared to make light of that because I don't feel if that's the case. I obviously I agree with you that that it is a disgrace to have young people coming out of our school systems that are not capable of reading but I would like to emphasize some things that have occurred in our school systems in the past 15 years Princeton Minnesota today graduates a higher percentage of its young people than any state in the nation are dropout rate is either the lowest or the second-lowest in the nation. We have a lot of young people in our schools today that simply were not in those School 15 years ago. In addition to that one must make the point that education is not a passive experience. It is not the kind of process that you can use in building automobile. It requires a fair degree of participation on the part of the individual. Generally speaking people in our society. Do not emphasize reading in the homes. Do not Ram precise reading in our society to the degree that they did years ago. Now that's no excuse for the schools to reduce their emphasis on that issue, but it does make it more difficult to have young people capable of reading and reading well if they spend most of their evenings in front of the television set with their parents watching TV and we're out years ago, the parents were perhaps reading and so it difficult for the schools to pick up on all of those attitudinal changes and supplement then to the degree to which to the point where we have everyone coming out with an adequate reading level. I don't think is any question but what schools have got to get back to re-emphasize in that we've got to to do a better job on the basics. I agree with that wholeheartedly but there are some severe problems and achieving the hundred goal with respect to literacy All right, we have another question are on the line. Go ahead. Mr. Gray was listening to your question chemical dependency and I think that probably also includes things like ecology sex education human relations and so forth. However, I understand it might research shows that personality which causes these problems develops in the first six or seven years of life before a child even begins Cooling and therefore my question is if schools don't deal with these Things like the drug dependency prevention sex education human relations and so forth a little social problems continue to exist in the school's student discipline problems in the classroom and Willow schools have to continue dealing with those problems. Well might you my general feeling is that you know that all of those achieve some some good. I wouldn't disagree with the fact that the school's out to be concerned about chemical dependency unit and a whole host of other issues that they've been expected to to deal with but I do believe that we have to expect that given an tonight amount of time a youngster is going to spend in school that if we're going to then we're going to dilute some of the other aspects of the educational program. We can expect a child to spend several hours of his educational experience, perhaps several months dealing with chemical dependency and then expect at the young person will be equally good in some of the other areas that have had to been diluted in order to provide that and that and I believe that this isn't a is a problem. I would give to you for instance see the whole area of physical fitness are schools are doing an excellent job in the in that area. Local Fitness not well enough to totally do away with our tendency to be a soft of society because of our dependency on the automobile and other mechanical meat, but that necessarily detract from the attention of the young person towards his educational experience it necessarily detract from the amount of money available to provide those other educational experiences. And I believe that we've simply got to recognize that that's going to somehow dilute. What we normally think of is of as the basic educational requirements. Do you think it's worthwhile Joe for schools to be spending time on problems with chemical dependency at perhaps some other kinds of problem when apparently if you are to accept the questioners argument many of these problems established themselves fairly early in life, perhaps there isn't enough time spent on them in school to be worthwhile. What do you think of that lie, you know why I don't know that we ought to look at The education about France's chemical dependency as being a solution chemical dependency, but I do think the chemical dependency of such a large aspect of our society that it's important to have people who are educated about the problem. So whether or not it actually solves the problem for a specific individual or prevents an individual from becoming chemically dependent. I think it's important that they understand the social and ramifications and implications of that phenomena that exist in our society in a large proportion. All right, we have another question for you Joe. Go ahead. Mr. Gray was listening to your question with Minneapolis. And if this doesn't run contrary to the idea of integration, and then also whether or not the Minneapolis School District should be the school district that's dissolved. Is there a merger than would be with the surrounding suburban school districts will maybe a little background to that question might be useful for some listeners. OK the Golden Valley School Board. I believe has come to the realization that with their declining enrollments is going to be very difficult for them to provide the same level of programming in the future that they have in the path consequently. They came to the Department of Education to ask for Revenue to conduct a feasibility study for consolidation purposes, the commissioner and myself decided that we that we needed such a study that consolidation Studies have not been performed recently in the state and we ought to as a state department participate in financing that sort of study. The Golden Valley District did not make the decision to not study the feasibility with Minneapolis. I made that decision and I think that that everyone ought to be aware of that. We actually considered five different I guess six different alternative one was a combination of a Golden Valley with Hopkins. Another was a combination of Golden Valley with St. Louis Park. Third one was a combination of Golden Valley with Robbinsdale. The fourth one was a combination leaving Raw Bar Golden Valley as it is the fifth one was carving out a district for Golden Valley that is coterminal with the boundaries of the municipality which means that the districts of Hopkins Robbinsdale and St. Louis Park would be reduced in size and a sixth one was the combination of Golden Valley with Minnesota with Minneapolis. I thought that the political chances of the of the combination with Minneapolis passing a vote in the Golden Valley District. We're so slim that it was not a reasonable investment of tax dollars to considerate in this study. I also thought that that the political chances of getting a school district coterminous with the boundary the Golden Valley. We're so slim that it did not Merit study in our expenditure of tax dollars in this study and consequently, I made the decision that the grant be limited to the feasibility of combining Golden Valley was either Park Hopkins or Robbinsdale. What about the idea of dissolving the Minneapolis school district and and sending the students to the suburbs? What do you think about that? I'm not exactly sure what the reason for that would be but it's an interesting proposition. Well, obviously Diana does have the potential to solve some of the Desegregation problems of Minneapolis it also of course has the potential to create I think of tremendous upheaval and in the people of the suburb and that I've been a little when we deal with the realities of how to spend money tax money efficiently. I was simply convinced that the in the in the $50,000 study that we were going to fun that there wasn't going to be enough money to adequately study that problem good we have another question are on the line. Go ahead. Mr. Grave. I was listening to your question. Yes. I heard you. Talking about the course offerings in the problem of reading and Mathematics and things like that and you continually talk about the dollars-and-cents the money and strictly numbers. Is there any group that watches out for the good or that has like a consumer Advocate or a student Advocates that takes into account the impact that the fact that the money goes here or goes there what what what impact that will have on the course offers offerings because where the money is this is where the kitchen cans to go to the other than that, that's definite. Yes. That's where the where the where the activity. I would tell you is that you know our system operates under the assumption that the parents and the voters and local districts are the advocacy group for the young people and I don't want to seem excessively harsh. But I think it's fairly Advocate accurate to say that that the public has not been paying enough attention to what's going on in local units of government. I think that's the same sort of accusation can be made with respect to state government and with respect to federal government. Local school boards are an attempt to bring the decisions to the local level. Otherwise this state might as well run the whole educational program from the state from the state level, but there's no way to make participatory democracy work if the people don't participate and in the decisions that are being made in school districts as if that's the word allocate $2 If the parents did not express their opinions, then of course those that do Express their opinions or going to get the money channel in the direction that they want to channel. I would tell you very frankly that that has happened in areas of Mo school districts that I personally would disagree with but then that is the way the system operates and only the people can change. All right, we have time for one more call or go ahead. Mr. Grandpa is listening to your question. Good morning plastic over what he calls trade school of them. Can I make a comment? I have a boy in Hastings system is an excellent system in the 8th grade. Now, let me tell you what kind of bar. This is. This is a boy who has no interest in such matters. He's a boy in food preparation. I could see something I get it but why is a boy I have to do home economics as a required subject. I can't answer your question served because I don't understand the reasoning behind that requirement. There is no State regulation that that anyone take home economics. There is no Federal Regulation. If your son was required to take home economics in the Hastings system that was either a conscious decision on the part of the school board or it was a scheduling problem that the school district had to I had to react to and I guess I'm inclined to question the desirability of requiring boys to take omica nomics. Although I certainly support the concept that if they want to they ought to be able to Well, unfortunately, we will be unable to take any further questions from Instagram because I have one question that I think I'll have to be covered and then I want to get to a bit of weather information Joe. Finally. We've been talking a mostly about Suburban in City School District problems, but there is another problem that I'd like you to address briefly and that is the situation face by some real school districts where the value of the agricultural land and much of the rule district and become so valuable. In fact that the tax on that land it represents more money raised in the state to that rule school district and so is a result The Local District. The real district is not eligible for state aid. In other words. They're using only the money they raised from the local tax on that lamp. Am I accurate in that assessment then if I'm accurate, is that a real problem for some of those real districts? Why yes it is. It's a definite problem and a growing problem with respect to our finance system. It's a serious concern at the state level as well as at the local level are the combination of escalating land values and declining enrollments brings is bringing more and more of the school district's ottobar formula. I believe that this current school year we have about five districts in the state where the 29 Mills actually raises more than $960 per pupil unit in that school district. Now one of the things that from the equity standpoint on taxes one must remember that an additional to the nine hundred million dollars a year that the state puts out to the schools and school aid expenditures. We have a whole host of indirect AIDS. They a differential is a substantial expenditure to ease that problem in the same is true with the homestead credit the circuit breaker in the senior citizens tax freeze on Homestead Property. So one must consider the total Tax picture in addition to the school light system down good. Thank you Joe Graber Deputy Commissioner of Education from the Minnesota Department of Education. And I also thanks to two legislative analyst from the State House of Representatives research staff for helping me prepare this program. They are Sarah Peterson and Barbara Diamond technical director for this program was Lynn Cruz and she was aided by Neil Saint Anthony and of course, I want to thank all the listeners for again posing excellent questions to our guests this Saturday morning.

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