Dayton, DFL legislators reversed trend of dwindling support for schools

UA layout_UA layoutJeff Johnson, the Republican nominee for governor, provided a glimpse of his leadership style May 15, telling a Tea Party group he would “go all Scott Walker on Minnesota” if elected Nov. 4. So what is it about Walker’s Wisconsin that Johnson believes is worth replicating?

To answer that question – and to get a sense of what a Johnson administration might mean for union families – we’re analyzing the different approaches taken by Walker and labor-endorsed Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton on four key issues over the last four years:

[Related: A governor who will ‘go all Scott Walker’ on Minnesota? No thanks, unions say.]

Education. In addition to slashing teachers’ benefits and bargaining rights, Walker cut state funding for public school districts in Wisconsin by $834 million in his first year in office. That’s roughly the amount of new funding the state has funneled into public schools during Dayton’s four years in office.

Stephanie Bloomingdale, secretary-treasurer of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, called Walker’s first education budget “the largest cut to schools in state history.” With 73 percent school districts in Wisconsin cutting staff or programming as a result of the budget cuts, she added, “our children are paying the price.”

Education Minnesota President Denise Specht, who leads the state’s largest union of school employees, warned that Johnson would lead Minnesota down a similar path.

“Walker has been a disaster for Wisconsin students, so it’s baffling why someone running for office in Minnesota would choose him as a role model,” she said. “Wisconsin is now investing $1,000 less per student than in 2008, which means the Wisconsin workforce will be at a competitive disadvantage for decades.”

Walker also has expanded Wisconsin’s private-school voucher program, which Specht called “out of control.” According to published reports, the voucher program has funneled $139 million from state coffers into failing private schools over the last 10 years – funds that could otherwise have supported public school districts.

Minnesota, meanwhile, is on the opposite path.

As a candidate, Dayton pledged to reverse a decade-long trend of dwindling support for Minnesota’s public schools. With help from pro-worker majorities elected to the Legislature two years ago, he signed bills to repay more than $2 billion borrowed from school districts, reduce class sizes and guarantee statewide access to all-day kindergarten.

That progress is at risk if Johnson is elected governor, Specht said

“If you’re in a working family that cares about the education of your children, there’s something you should know when you hear someone say he wants ‘go all Scott Walker’ on your state,” Specht said. “You should know that is a threat you can’t ignore.”

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