Jasinski: Back to school news you can use!

Back to school news you can use!

By Senator John Jasinski

With students having recently began school again, I thought it would be a good time to review what Senate Republicans have done for public education.

I went to Faribault public schools and graduated from Faribault High. My daughter attends a Catholic school here, but my son went to Faribault public schools. So I take seriously our state’s longstanding commitment to education, and I am proud of what we have accomplished so far. No doubt about it, the last two years have been great for Minnesota’s schools.

This budget cycle we invested $18.7 billion into K-12 schools. This is a massive increase from the last budget — $1.3 billion, to be precise. Education is more than 40% of our state budget, the largest of any area. It speaks to the bipartisan commitment to Minnesota’s kids.

To accompany that funding boost, we added annual 2% increases to the Per Pupil General Education Formula. This sounds confusing, but in simple terms it is the formula that is used to allocated money to districts on a per student basis, before considering additional factors such as the student population each district serves. This increase was higher than previous years and was a top priority for education advocates, teachers, and parents.

Schools must have the resources to provide a great education, but we know money is not the only answer. A new report card grading Minnesota schools bears that out. A decade worth of heavy investment in education has had minimal impact on outcomes. Reading and math proficiency remains frustratingly stagnant.

Republicans have put a heavy focus on reforms, but for the last two years special interests have fought those improvements. I will keep fighting, though, because our children’s futures are too important.

Protecting our children

In 2018, school safety was on everyone’s mind. After tragedies in Parkland, Florida and elsewhere, I received a lot of questions from rightfully-concerned parents who wanted to make sure nothing like that would ever happen to their children. It’s a threat I take extremely seriously.

That is why school safety was at the top of our to-do list. While Gov. Dayton disappointingly vetoed a bill that would have helped schools add security guards, school counselors, and bullet proof glass, we were able to persuade him of the importance of other safety improvements.

Republicans added $25 million to this year’s bonding bill specifically for safety infrastructure upgrades. This will allow schools to make their buildings safer and more secure. This builds on funding for the Minnesota School Safety Center, which helps schools conduct threat assessments, identify red flags, train for intruder responses, and improve security.

We won’t rest there, though. Our kids spend most of their day at school for 9 months of the year; their safety has to be our number one priority.

Saving money on school supplies

If there is one thing every parent dreads about the new school year, it’s shelling out big bucks for school supplies. It seems to get more expensive every year!

Some good news: save your receipts, because you might qualify for a tax break on some of those school supplies.

Regardless of income, if you have kids in K-12 schools you can claim tax credits and deductions for things like tutoring, enrichment programs, textbooks and instructional materials, and more. Even some home school expenses qualify.

If you want to learn more, contact me or visit the Department of Revenue’s web site.

Whether your children attend public school, private school, or home school, I wish everyone a safe and successful year!