Staff and parents from the giant school district that includes Fridley's northwestern corner gathered in Anoka Thursday to air complaints about the state of financing of public education in Minnesota.
Among the legislators listening and occasionally commenting was Rep. Carolyn Laine (DFL-50A), whose district takes in the western half of Fridley. (Laine told the 30 or so in attendance that some of her constituents send children to Adams Elementary School in Coon Rapids.)
The roundtable event was advertised by the DFL House Caucus and featured Laine and four other DFL representatives, including Mindy Greiling, the party's lead legislator on the House Education Finance Committee.
They heard from parents worried about declining school resources, a science teacher whose lab had too many students, and a music teacher whose budgets had not enough money to buy tubas.
But partisan sparks flew in both directions thanks to the presence of Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-16A) of Princeton, who chairs the House Education Reform Committee. Erickson took umbrage at the DFLers' pinning blame for schools' financial straits on Republicans.
Laine largely stayed out of that fray. In response to one teacher's comment that Indiana officials plan prisons based on third-grade demographics, Laine offered her view that "there is a strong connection from early childhood [education] all the way to adulthood."
But Anoka-Hennepin Superintendent Dennis Carlson decried a new flyer that used education data he said was wrong and would harm the district's levy efforts this fall. Building trust with voters is essential, he said: "It makes or breaks us."