Education: Top Priority

I am pleased to announce that I have been selected as Chair of the Senate Education Finance Committee. Our mission is to prepare recommendations regarding priority number one—education. Our charge is rooted in the state’s constitution. The success of our state and nation directly relate to how well parents and schools prepare students for the future. That means providing quality programs, staff and adequate funding.

The Legislature convenes Jan. 8. Many of us are meeting now with individuals and groups–parents, students, staff, business and others–to discuss ideas in preparation for our mission.

As you know, our schools face a budget challenge. During the 2011 legislative session, the state faced a large deficit. The session ended in controversy with a budget bill (which I strongly opposed) that borrowed from our education system. During the past few months, Minnesotans saw a lot of finger-pointing and political talk over the issue, but it is time for the blame-game to end. We need to put partisanship aside and do what is best for education in Minnesota.

Looking ahead, our Education Finance Committee will work closely with Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius and the Education Finance Working Group. That group was charged by Gov. Mark Dayton to develop recommendations for school finance reform.

The goals of the working group are to:
• Improve the adequacy, equity and stability of pre-K-12 education funding
• Simplify education funding
• Preserve local control
• Close the achievement gap
• Promote high achievement for all students
• Direct resources closest to students, teachers and the classroom
Additional background information is available on the Department of Education’s website at

http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/Welcome/AdvBCT/EducFinanWork/index.html

We look forward to reviewing the recommendations of the working group. Additionally, the general public plays a significant role in providing suggestions to legislators. If you have any thoughts on improvements to our education system, I encourage you to reach out to me and others. Your involvement matters.

It is an honor to be serving as the new chair of the Senate Education Finance Committee. When I was a student at Hamline University, I served as an intern for former Senator Jerry Hughes, who served as the Senate President and Education Chair. Legislators then were also faced with education funding problems and eventually developed a new education funding formula popularly called the “Minnesota Miracle”. It is my strong hope that in 2013 state legislators will again respond to the need, challenge and responsibility of providing adequate programs and fair funding for our schools. Our future depends on it!

As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions regarding any issue. Please visit my Senate website at senate.mn/senatorwiger. I also encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your home or apartment. Also, please tune in to my local cable TV show, “Your Capitol: What’s Up?,” which appears on public access channels 15 and 16.

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Senator Chuck Wiger
Chuck Wiger represents District 43, which includes portions of Ramsey and Washington counties in the northeastern Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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