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Public school funding should be top priority for Minnesota

Are Minnesotans going to stand idly by and watch our formerly vibrant, progressive state slide into mediocrity, because of unwillingness to pay the price of good education for our children?

Our country's founding fathers believed in public education. They made a commitment to an enduring public school system only nine years after the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. Through the Land Ordinance of 1785, the United States Congress provided for the establishment of townships, consisting of thirty-six, one-square-mile sections. Each township was required to reserve one section of land for public schools.

These include the country schools that dotted the landscape of rural America as westward development spread. Many leading citizens of Otter Tail and other surrounding counties attended "country school," and went on to graduate from public high school and the University of Minnesota, a land grant public institution.

Cutting funds for public education is foolish and short sighted. Historically, Minnesota has had one of the best public educational systems in the country, producing leaders in business and industry, commerce and agriculture, education, medicine, law, and the arts. Our public schools have strengthened Minnesota by preparing young citizens to become contributing members of society. We must continue this tradition of excellence in education if we are to provide workers trained in new technologies of the future.

Many conservative Republicans do not support public education. Why? Because they are more interested in enriching themselves through unbridled and unregulated competition than in providing a level playing field where all may have a chance to succeed.

Organized forces of wealth, power and privilege are working relentlessly to defeat the middle class, cutting funds for education and killing jobs. America is now seeing a decline in test scores for students in math and science compared to other countries around the world. We can't let this trend continue. Right when we need to ramp up our schools as we did in the sixties during the "Sputnik" era, the Republicans want to decrease school funding and cut taxes so they will have more money for their own personal use.

We need to fight back and defeat this misguided attempt to rob our future of educated, thinking citizens. Call or write your state representative and senator and say that adequate funding for public education is a top priority in Minnesota. Our future as a well-functioning state with a thriving economy depends on it.

-- Liz Sweder, Fergus Falls