Updated at 4:20 p.m. with Speaker Kurt Daudt comments
Thirty-one Democrats in the Minnesota House of Representatives are urging Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt to take action this session to address the state’s troubling racial economic disparities.
Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, sent a letter to Daudt Tuesday asking him to target at least $50 million to the issue. Thirty of her DFL colleagues, including Minority Leader Paul Thissen, co-signed the letter.
“It is time we come together to acknowledge that racial economic disparities in our state is an emergency,” Moran wrote.
Moran, who is the only African American member of the House, noted that the median income of black Minnesotans fell by 14 percent between 2013 and 2014, while poverty rates rose.
Gov. Mark Dayton proposed $100 million this session to tackle racial disparities. The DFL-controlled state Senate proposed $90 million.
Moran is critical of House GOP leaders for not including a specific allocation for economic disparities in their budget targets. She said they are “ignoring a crisis” facing the state.
“We urge you and your caucus to take immediate action in correcting this oversight before the end of the week,” she said.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Zimmerman, said the requests for more money don’t do enough to address academic achievement gaps he believe are at the root of the economic disparities.
“Throwing money at programs which has not shown to have any meaningful impact will not solve the problem,” Daudt said. “We need to deal with the real problem which is we are not giving our kids, our minority students the tools to be successful in our public schools.”
House Republicans included some funding initiatives related to economic disparities in their recently released finance bills. They point out 11 items totaling $6.4 million in this year’s jobs bill and 13 education bill provisions totaling $19.3 million.
In releasing budget targets earlier this month, House Ways and Means Chair Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, stressed that Republicans still want the disparity discussion to include an expansion of tax credits for private school tuition.
“We believe that school choice is really important, and if we can see some sort of substantial progress on school choice that would help poor and minority children have the same opportunities that other people have, then we’re open to negotiation,” Knoblach said.