Like their colleagues in many other states, Minnesota legislators are debating how much state money to spend on schools.
But this year, Minnesotans have a greater say in the school funding battles at the Capitol in St. Paul.
Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson and Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, both members of the state’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, asked the public to send in their own ideas to help raise money for public schools. The lawmakers made their requests through news outlets across the state and by e-mail messages to groups for school administrators, teachers, and other education professionals.
The volume of responses was much bigger than expected.
Sen. Johnson’s office received more than 1,200 responses from Minnesotans, who had plenty of ideas about raising money for schools. Those ideas ranged from the practical to the just plain kooky.
“It got a little overwhelming,” said John Kavanagh, the leadership assistant to Mr. Johnson. “It had a life of its own.”
Some highlights: One person suggested burning soybeans, a cash crop, as fuel to provide heat in public schools. Another suggested covering the outside of schools with foamy insulation out of a spray can as a way to lower energy bills.
Other ideas pertained to the ongoing political debate over school finance, and what the public schools might look like in the future. Some angry responses argued that schools are not receiving adequate funding and that teacher salaries are too low. Others said that pay for teachers—and especially for school administrators—seemed high. Yet another endorsed imposing a co-payment or user’s fee on parents with children in school.
A few argued for school district mergers as a way to save money, while others said preserving community schools and smaller campuses would be best.
After local news reports about the level of response to the legislators’ request, Sen. Johnson’s office received another 200 ideas, Mr. Kavanagh said.
When some people read about the idea of installing McDonald’s restaurants or other fast-food eateries on campuses as a way of raising money, others wrote to the senator to protest the idea and demanded that students have healthy places to eat.
Mr. Kavanagh said lawmakers may consider some of the ideas. Well, maybe not the spray-on insulation.
A version of this article appeared in the March 02, 2005 edition of Education Week