State Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, is chair of the House Education Finance Committee. How someone in that position can be so wrongheaded on school finance, we don't know.
Garofalo gave new meaning to the word "chutzpah" earlier this year when he complained about all the school districts asking for tax levy referendums, even after the Legislature raised the state school finance formula level $50 per pupil each year in the new biennium. He neglected to mention that this magnanimous gesture comes after several years of the Legislature holding the funding level static, and after the state borrowed billions of dollars in school funds by shifting and withholding school funds to help balance the state's budget deficit.
Now, Garofalo says he will introduce a bill to force school districts to hold levy referendum votes in even years only. This coming Tuesday a record number of school districts will be holding referendum votes in off-year elections when they are the only issue on the ballot.
According to Garofalo, districts are doing this to take advantage of low voter turnout and lack of interest. "The irony is at the same time we're seeing so much press about a $300-million state subsidy for a Vikings stadium, there's going to be $900 million in tax revenue on the ballot next Tuesday - and there's been very little coverage of it," Garofalo said.
Garofalo is wrong if he thinks districts are holding referendums now to get some easy money while no one's paying attention. They are holding referendums now because the state government, including the chairman of the House Education Finance Committee, has been shortchanging school districts for years. They need the money, and they need it now.
Garofalo should stop trying to make villains out of hard-pressed school board members and school administrators, and consider his own culpability for the record number of referendums this year.