Dakota County legislators dodge community meeting on school funding

Working America member Mike Adair addresses a community meeting on school funding in Burnsville.

A group of Dakota County residents convened a community meeting in Burnsville May 12, hoping to give people an opportunity to ask their legislators questions about things like school funding and property taxes.

Unfortunately, not one of the area’s legislators acted on the invitation to attend, leaving the roomful of concerned parents, school district employees and other community members with more questions than answers.

“Why are our schools suffering? Why are property taxes on the middle class skyrocketing while our schools are giving kids less and less each year?” asked Mike Adair, an Eagan resident and father of four students in the Eagan school district.

“It’s not the district’s fault that they are squeezed dry every year. This mess comes directly from the state, and our representatives need to be held accountable for making choices that hurt our kids and their schools.”

The meeting underscores the task at hand for Minnesota’s union members and their community allies in this election year. The 2011-12 legislative sessions produced unprecedented attacks on workers from newly elected Republican majorities in the House and Senate, including a so-called “Right to Work” constitutional amendment.

Electing pro-worker majorities to the Legislature this November will require unions, through their Labor 2012 campaign, to make gains in places like Burnsville and Eagan, communities that have suffered from the state’s failure to fund local schools and public services adequately.

Residents like Adair, a member of the AFL-CIO community group Working America, are ready to work for candidates committed to raising revenue fairly to balance the budget in 2013.

“This is not the Minnesota I envisioned my kids growing up in,” said Adair. “Simply putting band-aids on the wounds every school year is not going to help. We need to think long-term.”

Metro-area unions will kick off in the Labor 2012 campaign with a rally May 17 in Minneapolis, where union leaders and volunteers plan to “celebrate our victories – and talk about what’s next, so these attacks don’t come back in 2013.”

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