What will become of new school funding?

Minnesota Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker visited the Fairmont school district this week. She learned about the many great things happening in the local schools and offered praise for the cooperation in the community to ensure that local students enjoy success today and tomorrow.

We have to echo her thoughts. Fairmont Area Schools has some incredible programs and initiatives. The district is forward-thinking, while working diligently to remain fiscally responsible. (It’s not perfect, of course, lest anyone think our praise is too effusive.)

One reason Ricker visited was to tout Gov. Tim Walz’s budget proposal for public schools. Under his plan, Fairmont Area would receive an additional $2 million over the next two years. The Republican-led Senate has its own proposal. Under it, Fairmont would get $322,000 more in the same time period.

Well, who wouldn’t want $2 million compared to $322,000? But the question to be asked is what is the appropriate level of funding, not the highest level. Expect state lawmakers to negotiate something in the middle as they look to wrap up their session by May 20.

In determining appropriateness, one question to ask is what will taxpayers, parents and students get for the added money? Are the new funds meant to tackle inflation or drive new programs? What will those programs cost in the long run? Are they sustainable? Will the funds simply be poured into salaries? How much and why?

The answers are important not just today but for years to come. So they need to be good ones.