Garofalo’s surprise plan to kill integration school aid worries officials

Rep. Pat Garofalo says it's time to end special funding for school integration.
MinnPost photo by James Nord
Rep. Pat Garofalo says it’s time to end special funding for school integration.

Rep. Pat Garofalo on Wednesday revealed two surprises in the House’s main education finance bill that drew concern from lawmakers and officials who say the abrupt changes could significantly harm Minnesota’s schools.

Garofalo, chairman of the House Education Finance Committee, said his legislation would eliminate integration funding, which is used by districts to desegregate schools. The measure also would increase state aid for charter schools.

It’s likely the bill will be introduced early next week.

The state’s “cities of the first class” — Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth — would be hardest hit if the integration funding is eliminated. The state pays roughly $90 million annually to districts for transportation and other attempts to improve interracial contact and close the achievement gap.

Magnet schools in Minneapolis, for example, attract students citywide based on academic specialties, but busing kids to different schools to promote integration costs money.

Minneapolis would have $17 million hole to fill
Minneapolis Public Schools receives about $17 million each year — or about $480 per student — in integration dollars on top of the state education funding formula and compensatory aid for low-income students. Roughly 70 percent of the funding comes from the state, and the district levies the other 30 percent, though Minneapolis’ share is slightly higher than other districts’.

Although Minneapolis just closed a $20 million shortfall for next school year, losing this funding would force officials to do it all over again.

The district’s chief financial officer, Peggy Ingison, called integration funding “part of our core.” She was unsure what would happen if the aid was cut or redistributed.

“We’ve closed a lot of schools, and we’ve made a lot of cuts,” she said. “I don’t quite have a very clear sense of what we would do.”

Funding formula needs work, both parties say
 Politically, both parties agree that the integration funding formula is ineffective. A 2005 legislative auditor’s report ripped the program for lacking focus and having little oversight, and Rep. Mindy Greiling spent the next four years as the House Education Finance Committee chairwoman attempting to reform it.

But Greiling said if given the chance, she would take a different tack.

A phased approach to implementing a continuum of redistributed funds would allow districts to plan more effectively, she said, calling Garofalo’s proposal a “huge rape of the core cities.”

Asked about Greiling’s characterization, Garofalo responded: “Nobody disputes this program is a failure,” he said. “Nobody.”

He stressed focusing on data-driven solutions to help close the achievement gap and increase school performance, qualities he says the integration formula lacks.

After the Republican legislative storm in November, Greiling said one of her fears was that the GOP would play “reverse Robin Hood” with districts and begin redistributing funds.

“This is my worst nightmare,” Greiling said. “I’m waking up, and it’s still going on.”

But Ingison said she understands that cuts to the state’s core cities make political sense because Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth don’t have any majority party representation.

However, “It’s just shortsighted, Ingison said. “People talk about wanting to encourage job growth and encourage economic activity. Well, you gut your services in the central cities, where do you think the economic activity is going on in the state?”

In conversations with Garofalo as a member of the Minnesota Association of School Business Officials, Ingison said the education chairman told her to consider property tax increases in response to state aid cuts.

But flat state aid since 2001 has already forced huge property tax increases, Ingison said, noting that Minneapolis residents pay nearly $65 million annually as part of a 2008 voter-approved levy. That doesn’t include other levies that come wrapped in state funding.

Greiling thinks governor would stop such a move
Moving forward, Gov. Mark Dayton could line-item veto the provision out of the larger education finance bill, Greiling said, or: “I’m guessing the bill will be so bad he’ll have to veto the whole thing.”

Dayton, who was unavailable for comment on the issue of integration funding, is set to release his own education bill today. Greiling will carry the legislation in the House.

Both Garofalo and Greiling are also part of a Dayton education finance working group that begins work on March 23 where the issue is set to come up.

There also are concerns about Garofalo’s plan to increase aid to charter schools, which some see as hindering true integration. Because of Minnesota’s open enrollment policy, some parents are prone to choosing a culturally specific school that may not represent wide racial diversity, Ingison said.
“It’s really sort of contradictory when we say, ‘We really want integration and we want to make sure integration happens,’ but it really has to be totally voluntary,” Ingison said. “it’s really hard to [integrate] when people get to choose.”

Garofalo’s announcements came as part of a GOP press conference on Republican reform efforts.

Speaker Kurt Zellers said House Republicans are working “hand in glove” on both the state’s $5 billion budget deficit and on a “fundamental change in how we deliver government.”

Republicans highlighted efforts to streamline state agencies, improve the use of technology and consolidate operations, but the only specific figure was a $172 million savings from a proposed 15 percent state workforce reduction.

The fiscal analysis of numerous reform bills was based on similar programs implemented in other states.

“We don’t have an apple to compare to an apple,” Zellers said.

The goal is to solve the Minnesota’s current budget deficit and prevent the looming $4.4 billion shortfall approaching in the 2014 budget cycle.

Before the Republican event, DFLers Paul Thissen and Ryan Winkler met with reporters and downplayed the GOP’s talk of reform.

“Reform is a catch phrase they’ve been using. But there’s a few things people should know,” Thissen said. “We’ve already done a lot of reform.”

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (19)

  1. Submitted by CJ McCormick on 03/17/2011 - 11:59 am.

    This is the nugget from the article:
    “In conversations with Garofalo as a member of the Minnesota Association of School Business Officials, Ingison said the education chairman told her to consider property tax increases in response to state aid cuts.”

    Really, Garofalo? I thought you were the party of no new taxes. Oddly enough, under Pawlenty’s reign of terror, my property taxes more than DOUBLED. I am paying for the Minneapolis Public Schools referendum. Just yesterday I wrote a third check to my son’s school, because they need to buy paper. This morning, like every morning and evening, I dodged massive holes in the road on my commute to work. Oh, and a street in my neighborhood blew up this morning. Earlier this week a study was released that said that the low and middle income workers in Minnesota pay a higher percentage in taxes than the high income earners. Change that. Make it fair and equitable. Have them pay the same percentage. Then our state will have money to work on infrastructure, so that bridges don’t fall and streets don’t explode. Then you wouldn’t stick it to the core cities and towns through reduced local government aid, forcing these towns and cities to stick it to the homeowners through property taxes. I am so sick of this.

  2. Submitted by CJ McCormick on 03/17/2011 - 12:01 pm.

    It doesn’t surprise me that Garofalo is from Farmington. He doesn’t give a rip about cities or the people in them.

  3. Submitted by Victor Johnson on 03/17/2011 - 12:53 pm.

    This decision will hurt education….public, private, and charter schools.
    I am always surprised how people who have never stepped into a classroom are those chosen to administrator school funds and make decisions regarding education. And the teacher bashing continues by those on the Right.
    May I recommend to all to read the book “The Manufactured Crisis” by Biddle and Berliner” to learn how the GOP ruined America’s education system.

  4. Submitted by Kristin Jorenby on 03/17/2011 - 01:36 pm.

    If a bill like this is successful it merely opens the door to a hugely expensive set of lawsuits. Take the WMEP district which exists because of lawsuits and the inability of large urban disticts to diversify their student populations on their own. If you take away the funding that enables even some desegreation we have taken a giant step backward in the civil rights movement. I’m going to take a stab in the dark and guess that if funding were removed we would end up spending much more than $90 million on the litgation that would follow.

  5. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 03/17/2011 - 02:23 pm.

    Re-segregation is one of the *goals* of education deformers. Two new studies have shown how charter schools are distinctly more segregated than regular public schools.

  6. Submitted by Tim Schulze on 03/17/2011 - 02:34 pm.

    here also are concerns about Garofalo’s plan to increase aid to charter schools, which some see as hindering true integration. Because of Minnesota’s open enrollment policy, some parents are prone to choosing a culturally specific school that may not represent wide racial diversity, Ingison said.

    And the problem here is????

    “It’s really sort of contradictory when we say, ‘We really want integration and we want to make sure integration happens,’ but it really has to be totally voluntary,” Ingison said. “it’s really hard to [integrate] when people get to choose.”

    Yah, it’s just tragic when people get to (gosh it’s tough to say) “choose”. It’s like a dirty word. Much better when the gov decides for us where our children should go to school. and eat. and think..

  7. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 03/17/2011 - 03:27 pm.

    It’s all part of the continuing package of the revived post-1960’s Republican party that was based on “states-rights” to prevent the desegregation of schools.

    The anger of the Republicans is based on the idea that someone who “isn’t deserving” is getting some benefit that they “don’t deserve”. The old whipping boys of the Republican party–“welfare queens”, immigrants, unnecessary social programs–all stemming from the fundamental “wrong” of desegregation. The government was the enemy of the segregationists, it’s still the enemy now. The cry of “communism” has become “socialism” and Obama derangement syndrome is running wild. The rhetoric has become smoother and more polished, but the intent remains the same.

  8. Submitted by Jason Samuel on 03/17/2011 - 04:21 pm.

    This is no surprise. Garaffalo has been wanting to eliminate integration revenue for a very long time. He, like other segregationists before, often cite the “failed” policy of integration only to promote their desire to have de facto segregated schools and use “research” to discredit the benefits and consequences of segregation.

    Let me be clear; School segregation is harmful to our future as a state and nation.

    At a recent Senate hearing on a bill that reduces Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth’s integration revenue by millions, Chair Gen Olson provided over 30 minutes of testimony from conservative Katherine Kersten who cites numerous “research based” claims that integration has “little, no, or a negative impact on students.” While this simply is not true, testimony from superintendents of those districts was limited to two minutes.

    Interestingly, there was non-partisan a statewide task force that studied the current rule and made numerous, bold recommendations that would fix the current policy. For some reason, both chairs in the house and senate refused to give the recommendations a hearing. As Garaffalo states that “Nobody thinks this is working, nobody” he again, is wrong.

    There are many places where this is working and creating greater choice through magnet schools (my child attends one). These are great choices and meet the needs of our communities. Some districts are seeing their racial achievement gaps close, too. That all said, why would we think that student achievement would improve as a result of integration when our schools, with the exception of magnet schools, have not changed?

    The integration rule only recently has language added that requires districts to use revenue to help close the achievement gap. This should not be the measure the success of this policy – not yet

    Don’t believe the rhetoric from Garaffalo. I’m not sure where or how he gets his perspectives on diversity, but if we want our schools to be even further segregated, lets at least be clear about this and not play ‘Minnesota nice’ by acting like issues of race and racism doesn’t exist in our state.

  9. Submitted by chuck holtman on 03/17/2011 - 04:59 pm.

    Mr Schulze (#6): Here’s the concept: Many expressions of absolute individual freedom cause injury to others. We, as a society, through the making of laws, agree to constrain the absolute freedom of each of us when we believe the consequence will be more freedom. We prohibit the setting off of gaseous poisons in public spaces. I am more free when no one, including me, can “choose” to set off poisons in public spaces than when everyone, including myself, can so choose. Myriad personal exercises of “freedom” injure others. When I, as a person of means, choose for my children to attend a segregated school, that injures others. Does that mean we should have a law that prohibits this choice? Not necessarily. Competing public values are in play. Being a citizen and a person means engaging in deciding these questions, thoughtfully and in good faith. But if one doesn’t get the concept, one really can’t and shouldn’t participate in the work of being a citizen, including voting. PS Another concept: “The government” isn’t something out there, it’s us in a representational form, if only we were smart enough not to keep electing megalomaniacs, charlatans and toadies of power.

  10. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/17/2011 - 05:02 pm.

    Oh please. Does anyone really believe that the state’s schools spend this $90 million on “desegregation efforts?” If you hurry you can jump back on the turnip truck. And if you followed the money it would lead to the teachers union political fund.

    Besides, school desegregation is an inherently racist idea that we shouldn’t be supporting intellectualy, much less financially. It’s based on the myth held by rural middleclass white folks who’ve moved to the big city to work as educrats, that black kids can’t learn unless they’re sitting next to white kids. The black parents I know are insulted by the overtly racist assumption.

    And ” .. how the GOP ruined America’s education system?” That’s rich. The government school system’s demise can be directly traced to around 1970 … when the former professional teachers association known as the NEA became a labor union instead. A labor union working in cities run by democrat politicians elected by the labor union.

  11. Submitted by Tim Schulze on 03/17/2011 - 06:24 pm.

    Chuck #9,

    Last time I checked there were no segregated schools in Minnesota.
    In addition, I would never compare selecting the catholic school my kids go to to setting off gaseous poisons in public places. I think that’s actually illegal.

  12. Submitted by Charlie Quimby on 03/17/2011 - 07:20 pm.

    Dennis says: “school desegregation is … based on the myth held by rural middleclass white folks who’ve moved to the big city to work as educrats, that black kids can’t learn unless they’re sitting next to white kids.”

    Or, possibly, that white kids who never interact with black kids will grow up to be GOP legislators from Farmington.

  13. Submitted by will lynott on 03/17/2011 - 07:50 pm.

    Mr Tester: the word “Democrat” is a noun, not an adjective. When discussing politicians or parties, the proper (adjective) term is “Democratic.” I trust you understand the difference, and if you do, thank a teacher.

  14. Submitted by Rich Crose on 03/17/2011 - 09:04 pm.

    Keep attacking education and the teachers and our students will soon be learning that the big bad Republican wolf blew the little pigs house in. That the ruby slippers were union made and Holden Caulfield was railing against a Republican controlled society.

    The only way to stop that is to quit educating our kids. They’ve got a pretty good start.

  15. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/17/2011 - 09:17 pm.

    It’s not the role of the government schools to play “meet Jamaal,” Charlie. It’s to teach kids to read, write and do arithmetic. All kids.

    The reason why over 70% of black parents support the idea of school vouchers redeemable at any school is because they strangely resent the government forcing their kids to attend failing schools who were organized and assembled, not by taxpaying parents who are free to choose the best option for their kids, but by white bureaucrats who know better. And who more often than not, send their kids to lily white private schools.

  16. Submitted by Charlie Quimby on 03/17/2011 - 11:24 pm.

    Lovely. I’d say most people who support public schools believe an education should do more than impart the three Rs.

    Preparing children to be productive in society and function as citizens are higher goals. So is giving students the analytical capacity to detect BS.

    It’s not just the public schools you denigrate that have fallen down on that score.

  17. Submitted by Regina Seabrook on 03/21/2011 - 06:01 pm.

    I find this debate over integration revenue disheartening for a couple of reasons. The first reason being that it reveals the relative powerlessness of people of color in Minnesota’s schools. Second, the achievement gap in Minnesota is projected to increase. What does this mean for our state’s economy? What does this say about ethical and informed school leadership across the state with regard to the allocation of integration funds? What messages are being sent to families of color and to white families? It took a Supreme Court case to integrate US public schools and an NAACP lawsuit to address persistent segregation in Minnesota schools. Where did “we” get the idea that the funds would be equitably used with consistency given this history and the fact that MDE and/or an independent agency has not effectively monitored its spending? As a Minnesotan of color and as a dedicated teacher of all students, I feel powerless, demoralized, and sad. I care about Minnesota, but question its commitment to all of its citizens.

    Regina Seabrook

  18. Submitted by Jim Meyer on 03/23/2011 - 12:46 pm.

    Thank you, Regina. I welcome more of your insight. Sincerely, Jim Meyer.

  19. Submitted by Jason Samuel on 03/24/2011 - 11:25 pm.

    Amen, Regina.
    Thanks also for your service as an outstanding educator – Teacher of the Year, Runner Up.

    What is happening here is more than disheartening. It’s ugly and it’s not our best. Proposing a bill with 34 provisions and taking ONE DAY of testimony is horrible and NOT the public service we expect.

    The South is winning people – In the words of George Walace in his inaugural speech: “It is very appropriate then that from this Cradle of the Confederacy, this very Heart of the Great Anglo-Saxon Southland, that today we sound the drum for freedom as have our generations of forebears before us done, time and time again through history. Let us rise to the call of freedom-loving blood that is in us and send our answer to the tyranny that clanks its chains upon the South. In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny . . . and I say . . . segregation today . . . segregation tomorrow . . . segregation forever.”

    I suspect Katherine Kersten and her Klan of others woud be thrilled!

Leave a Reply