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Letters: Invest in schools; Thanks, Washington County

School investments to help students for years to come

As a father and grandfather, I've spent the last number of years seeing how important our schools are for our kids. Now that they're starting to head back to school for the year, I was happy to look back on the things we passed this year to help schools and students in our area and around the state.

The main thing we passed — and got signed into law — was a $1.3 billion statewide increase in education funding in the next two years. That goes to help every school in Minnesota, and can make a big difference in our area. For example, South St. Paul and South Washington County Schools will receive a combined $9.3 million of additional, new investment over the next two years.

When speaking to members of our local school districts, I heard how funding was a big issue. Our plan includes a yearly 2 percent increase to the per-pupil funding formula, which was the request of districts around the state. It's important all of our schools have the sufficient funding they need to help our kids.

One thing I've learned more about since coming to the Legislature is early education. Our plan targets our investments to help our youngest learners and their families. We included funding for early education scholarships, which gives families flexibility to choose the program that best fits their child. We also have funding for districts to implement School Readiness Plus or VPK. It's important kids are ready for kindergarten and our plan creates the needed choice and flexibility to accomplish this goal.

Teachers could also see a benefit thanks to tax relief legislation we passed this year. Included in our main tax relief bill is a $2,500 credit for a K-12 teacher who completes a master's degree program in the content area directly relating to their licensure.

As kids and teachers start their school year, it's important to look ahead to the future, as our investments this year will go to help students this fall and for years to come.

Rep. Keith Franke

R-St. Paul Park

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New revenue for schools highlights 2017 K-12 accomplishments

The arrival of September means residents can expect a number of changes: leaves changing color, football on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and students heading back to school.

With parents beginning to think about their child's classes and classroom expenses, I thought now would be a great time to remind residents how the Legislature prioritized K-12 Education last session.

Some people believe that bipartisanship no longer occurs at the Capitol, but that is truly not the case. Last session a Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton agreed to a historic education funding proposal designed to give schools and teachers the resources they need to succeed.

Some of the agreement areas: $1.3 billion in new revenue to be allocated to schools across Minnesota, and there's a 2 percent increase to the per-pupil funding formula over each of the next two years. Locally, our K-12 funding proposal means South Washington County Schools will receive $7.703 million in funding increases, while Hastings will collect $1.825 million in new revenue.

The Legislature also implemented meaningful reforms during the 2017 session, including an investment in proven early education programming like pre-K scholarships and school readiness.

All of us want to see our children receive a world-class education, and providing needed resources to our school districts is certainly one of the ways we can help achieve that goal.

I'd also like to remind parents about Minnesota's tax credit programs for education expenses, so be sure to save your school supply receipts this year. Qualifying items include writing utensils, textbooks, and musical instrument rentals, while things like school lunches, uniforms, and backpacks do not. Full details about the education credit, and what can and cannot be claimed, are found on the Department of Revenue's website: http://www.revenue.state.mn.us.

Here's wishing the best of luck to all of the students, parents, and teachers in South Washington County and Hastings schools. Have a wonderful school year.

Rep. Tony Jurgens

R-Cottage Grove

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Thanks, Washington County

As the new Chair of the Metropolitan Council, I want to say thank you to the Washington County Board and staff, and the many mayors and city staff who graciously welcomed me this month as I kicked off my seven-county tour.

I believe in the mission and work of the Met Council, which is focused on efficient regional planning and delivering regional services like wastewater infrastructure, parks, and transit. That work depends on strong, collaborative relationships with the seven counties and nearly 200 communities we are accountable to.

While the Met Council does already have many strong relationships around the region, I know there are many places where those partnerships can be fostered and strengthened.

In Washington County, I was thankful for the time I got to spend with the County Board. I appreciated your feedback, your ideas for improvement, and your willingness to take time to meet with me. I heard many concerns about water supply and water quality, something that I know is one of the major priorities of the Council. Please know that I am committed to a partnership with the many stakeholders that focuses on solutions to the challenges we face.

Your pride in your tremendous regional parks was contagious. My tour of Lake Elmo Regional Park was great. I'm looking forward to taking my two boys there soon!

In addition to the Washington County Board, I enjoyed a tour of Hugo with Mayor Tom Weidt and a fabulous lunch at Rudy's Red Eye Grill in White Bear Lake with Mayor Jo Emerson. I was so impressed by the water conservation efforts in Hugo, and the passion for transit in White Bear Lake.

We all have a role to play in projects and issues that improve the livability and prosperity of our region. I believe firmly that we can disagree on some issues and still work to find common ground to move us all forward. I look forward to many more opportunities for partnership, in Washington County and throughout our region.

Alene Tchourumoff

Chair, Metropolitan Council

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