DFL receives failing grade on school shift

Throughout the 2012 campaign my GOP colleagues and I were attacked relentlessly by the DFL party and their ultraliberal special interest allies as having “stolen” money from our schools and “balancing the budget on the backs of children” for agreeing to the school shift as a part of the budget agreement with Governor Dayton in 2011.
Now they have changed their tune completely. Despite their feigned urgency about paying back the shift during the campaign, Governor Dayton and the DFL legislature are backpedaling furiously and have now proposed to delay school shift payback until 2017.
Their hypocrisy on this issue is unbelievable. In order to feed their insatiable desire to grow government and dramatically increase spending, Democrats are reneging on their campaign promise to pay back the schools. Despite claims of a budget free of “gimmicks” or “smoke and mirrors,” Governor Dayton is using an accounting trick in the form of delaying the shift payback to allow for more spending.
Governor Dayton claims that his “investments in education” will make up for the delay of the shift money. Unfortunately for our schools, the Governor is opting to delay $1.1 billion dollars in school shift payback until 2017, in order to “invest” just $148 million dollars in K-12 spending. Worse yet, that money is not even going directly into the classrooms. While the GOP increased per-pupil funding last biennium – the money that has the greatest impact and goes directly into the teaching of our students – the Governor’s spending increases are largely aimed at feeding government bureaucracy by boosting funding for the Department of Education.
The simple fact is that delaying the school shift will cost the state over $100 million dollars. While this may seem like a pittance to tax-and-spend DFLers, I believe this is an outrageous, irresponsible and hypocritical maneuver that’s financially irresponsible and fails Minnesota’s students.
It is equally disappointing to see the DFL’s union allies siding with the Governor rather than acting in the best interest of Minnesota’s students. Education Minnesota opposed the school shift in 2011, but has since opposed GOP efforts to responsibly pay back the schools in an attempt to give the Governor and DFLers political cover at the expense of our state and our schools.
We owe it to our schools and our students to pay back the school shift money. That’s why the GOP has led the way, on several occasions offering amendments that would use our state’s cash reserves to pay back the money we owe our schools. Unfortunately, the DFL has opposed these efforts on party-line votes every step of the way. It’s a basic principle we all understand; when you borrow money, you’re supposed to pay it back in a timely and responsible manner.
Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) represents District 15A in the Minnesota House of Representatives. She is also a retired English teacher from Princeton High School in Princeton.