Monday, November 21, 2005

Bonoff, Johnson address education funding

The Wayzata Legislative Action Committee distributed a questionnaire to SD 43 Senate candidates Terri Bonoff and Judy Johnson, who will face the voters in tomorrow's special election. Here are their responses.

1. What are your top three goals for representing Senate District 43?

Bonoff: Work to shift our education structure and state government thinking from a K-12 model to a Pre-K-12 system. This means that our public schools could have both the resources and the accountability for early childhood education. Studies have shown that investment in early education has the highest rate of return in improving school performance later on. Fix the bottlenecks in our roads and demand there be a plan for a modern transit system, advocating personally for the 394 corridor. Attack the healthcare problems with a combination of short-term cost saving strategies combined with a long-term strategic plan so that every MN citizen has affordable health insurance.

Johnson: I will work on transportation, education, public safety and ending unfunded mandates on local government. As Mayor of Plymouth and past city council member, I have proven experience and leadership in advocating for these issues for nine years as the local level and want to continue to work on them at the legislature on behalf of the people and businesses in SD43.

2. Basic education funding has not kept pace with inflation since 1992. What ideas do you have to move towards more stable basic funding for E-12 education in this state?

Bonoff: [No response.]

Johnson: I will work to fulfill the state's obligation to fund education in our public schools. As a mother of four children in Wayzata Schools, I have supported more long-term stable funding at the Capitol that does not always rely on local school levies which ultimately increases property taxes. I also want to be sure our Wayzata Schools are treated fairly with per pupil funding compared to other metro districts. I support funding that also measures accountability and gets to the students in order to improve education.

As League of Minnesota Cities President and Mayor of Plymouth, I worked to form a Local Government Finance Task force where we studied the issue of local government funding and presented our findings before the house and senate tax committees. I have also worked to form a coalition between the League of Minnesota Cities, the Minnesota School Boards Association and Minnesota Association of Counties so all organizations can work on areas of common concern and interest at the capitol. I have faced similar issues in the city community and am very prepared to tackle this if elected senator.

3. State special education funding formulas have been frozen and state special education aid is prorated, putting incredible strain on school districts statewide. As an example, the cross-subsidy, or shortfall between revenue and expenditures for special education in Wayzata Schools is over $4 million for this school year. How do you propose to address this challenge in the legislature?

Bonoff: This is a problem we must confront head on. School districts cannot afford to fund special education directly from general fund dollars. The process by which the State contributes makes this even more difficult by paying their portion in arrears and then pro-rating that. If elected, I will work towards establishing a dedicated stream of special education funding. I will continue to voice strong opposition to the federal government’s lack of special education funding. We must, as a State Legislature, put significant pressure on our US Senators and Representatives to address this issue at the federal level.

Johnson: I have a strong record as Mayor, LMC President and as a Wayzata Schools parent on opposing unfunded mandates on schools and all local governments. I believe the state and federal government must meet their obligations to our local communities. I will support bills that work to this end.

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