Minnesotans get one opportunity to vote directly on their taxes: the school referendum. Because of state education underfunding, more school districts are asking their voters to raise property taxes so they can keep serving the community’s children.


Minnesotans get one opportunity to vote directly on their taxes: the school referendum. Because of state education underfunding, more school districts are asking their voters to raise property taxes so they can keep serving the community’s children.

One chance to vote directly on taxes, and it’s on a regressive tax. What do you think that does for the likelihood of adequate funding for one of the public’s most critical long-term investments?

Of course, regressive tax levies would be rarer if the state would meet its obligations through pro-middle class measures like the progressive income tax. Doing so would make Minnesota better for its citizens, more attractive for prospective employers, and stronger at educating its children.

That is not our Minnesota, however. Eight years of Pawlenty’s anti-development policies have been followed with a Keystone Kapitalist Legislature singing themselves lullabies about the Laissez Fairy that will magically save our state if we just let our revenues stagnate. The end result? Minnesota’s middle class is forced to choose between voting for regressive taxes and failing our students.

This is borne out in an ongoing survey by the Minnesota School Boards Association that finds more than a third of Minnesota’s school districts considering levy referenda in November. Already the highest potential number of referenda in at least a decade, this could go higher by Aug. 26, districts’ deadline to confirm their referendum plans.

We must ask why Minnesota’s conservatives prefer the rich to pay less than the middle class while ducking responsibility for the regressive taxes they force on our families. The bottom 50 percent of Minnesotans already pay more taxes while earning less income than the richest 1 percent. We can support our children without punishing middle class families through higher taxes on their homes.

Our schools deserve better. Despite talking points saying that school districts aren’t efficient enough, Minnesota school districts only spend 4.3 percent of their funds on district administration. Ninety-five point seven percent goes to schools and getting kids to school; more than three quarters of school funds go directly into the classroom or to support staff and administration.

I have little doubt that many Minnesota families will do right by their children and their neighbors’ children with those referendum levies this November, but they shouldn’t have to. Our conservative legislators should revisit their values and choose to support Minnesota’s middle class families through balanced taxes. It’s time to say goodbye to the Laissez Fairy and govern like grown-ups.