Gov candidates debate school issues at debate

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer says he would wait until 2014 to begin paying back a $1.4 billion school funding delay. He also says he won’t cut school funding from current levels if he’s elected governor. Emmer released his budget plan before a debate today that focused on education issues. He says his top priorities as governor will be job creation and schools.

“Our schools will be a priority because I believe our children’s education is fundamental to our success. As governor, I will protect classroom funding.”

Emmer has yet to release a detailed plan to erase the state’s projected $5.8 billion budget deficit, but his plan to delay paying back the school funding shift would reduce the shortfall $1.4 billion. Democrat Mark Dayton says Emmer isn’t protecting school budgets if he declines to pay back the school funding shift. Dayton has promised to pay back the shift in the first budget cycle and increase funding for schools every year he’s governor.

Democrat Mark Dayton says Emmer can’t say he’s holding K12 school funding “harmless” if he’s not paying back the school funding shift. Schools across the state have been forced to borrow money to meet their cash flow needs. Dayton says his plan to raise income taxes on Minnesota’s top earners is geared specifically to getting more money to schools.

“Public education’s problems today are first and foremost financial. Can we reform them? Yes. Must we reform them? Absolutely, yes. Can we make public education better? Yes and we will. But we’re not go to do that by cutting and cutting and cutting and forcing more borrowing and putting you in precarious financial situations when you don’t know from one year to the next how much you have to operate. And when you do, that funding is taken away from you.”

Dayton is making a commitment to pay back the full K12 funding shift and spend more money on schools every year he’s governor. Tom Horner with the Independence Party says more money is needed for schools but also wants better results.

“The investment is based on what is the outcome that we want to achieve? And the outcome we need to achieve are our kids graduating from 12th grade with the skills they need to success in life. And when you back up from there, you better make sure they’re reading by grade level in third grade and they’re coming into kindergarten ready for success and we have parents who understand parenting skills.”

Horner says he also won’t start paying back the school payment delay in the next budget cycle.

Horner is proposing to expand the sales tax to clothing and some services but lowering the overall rate.

The debate, which was sponsored by the Association of Metropolitan School Districts and moderated by Keesha Gaskins at the League of Women Voters, can be heard here: