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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL)

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Help for Harvey; Back to School Time

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Dear Neighbors,

We are now in the waning days of summer, which has gone by all too rapidly. The Minnesota State Fair is here, and Tuesday I spent some time at the Minnesota House of Representatives booth in the Education Building. I had the opportunity to have some good conversations, and it’s clear Minnesotans are engaged and have opinions on a wide variety of issues. I appreciated hearing their perspectives.

Hurricane Harvey: How to Help

We continue to see the heartbreaking photos and video from Houston and the surrounding area due to the devastation caused by Harvey. Flooding has wiped away everything from many families, and at least 30 people have lost their lives, with this number continuing to rise. Clearly, the impact of this storm will be felt for years to come and the community will face a difficult path as they seek to rebuild what has been lost.

Amid images of the destruction though are uplifting instances of first responders taking action to rescue residents, along with neighbors coming together to provide support for one another. It’s so inspiring seeing people, both professional emergency personnel and civilians alike, taking on such an enormous task of getting others to safety during such a tragic event.

Floodwaters don’t appear to be subsiding soon and rescue operations are continuing. Folks in Houston need our support regardless of where we live, and they need it now. Many folks would like to step up and contribute to one of the many organizations getting help to those affected. Charities, both national and local, are working to deliver food, clothing, medicine, shelter, diapers and more. If you are inclined, please make a contribution to an organization like the American Red Cross, AmeriCares, the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, or the Houston Food Bank.

Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous groups and individuals also soliciting donations, seeking to take advantage of this tragedy for personal profit. To avoid being duped, prior to making a donation for Harvey relief, check out this guide from Charity Navigator, and this checklist from the Federal Trade Commission.

Back to school for Minnesota kids

For thousands of families throughout the state, the start of another school year is right around the corner or, in some cases, has already begun. There are countless Minnesotans, including teachers, parents, support staff, administrators and others who are set to hit the ground running - helping our young people learn skills, gain valuable life experiences, and reach academic success.

Here in Minnesota, we value our world class schools, and our students deserve the support they need to succeed in the classroom. This year’s legislative session delivered increased investments in our schools, which was a remarkable achievement considering the House Majority in fact initially proposed underfunding our schools. This would have led to teacher layoffs, larger class sizes and cuts in the classroom – completely unacceptable during a budget surplus. Thankfully, with Gov. Dayton’s support, the legislature committed to doing better. Minnesota’s public schools will see a 2 percent increase on the per pupil funding formula each of the next two years.

22,500 more kids will be able to enter preschool this fall due to investments made this session as well in voluntary pre-K and School Readiness Plus programs. Unfortunately, this only reaches a fraction of the communities with young learners throughout the state looking for more quality, affordable opportunities for pre-K education. We need to come together with solutions giving all Minnesota students a boost as they begin their academic journeys.

Unfortunately, for those Minnesotans going to college this fall, the legislative session likely left them facing a higher bill. The House Majority chose to grossly underfund the needs of both the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State systems, leading to tuition hikes. Along with programming and faculty cuts at campuses, this could cause our state’s future economic growth to be hamstrung. Minnesota’s college students are ranked fifth in the nation for average student loan debt loads. Increased investments will need to be made in our colleges and universities to prevent this burden from becoming completely unsustainable for students and families. I’m committed to continuing to work to reduce the costs of higher education and job training, and helping to tackle student debt.

It’s up to all of us to create an environment in which our young people can have the opportunity for successful development both now and down the road. I wish the students in your family the best, and hope you will provide the encouragement they need to meet their full potential, reaching goals and achieving at a high level in the classroom and in all of their endeavors including athletics, arts, or other activities in school and in the community.

Have an excellent school year.