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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Leigh Finke (DFL)

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Anoka-Hennepin School Board Budget Stalemate Threatens Equity and Education: Rep. Leigh Finke Calls for Action

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Saint Paul, Minn.The Anoka-Hennepin School Board faces a potential shutdown as three members threaten to block the district's 2024-25 budget. The dispute centers on racial and gender equity programs currently implemented by the schools. Board members Matt Audette, Zach Arco, and Linda Hoekman have publicly stated their opposition to these initiatives. They claim the programs promote "divisive, one-sided views" and want them removed from the budget. 

"All Minnesota students deserve to feel respected and valued in their learning environment. Denying our students access to programs that foster understanding and inclusivity is a disservice to their education and their future," declared Representative Leigh Finke, Minnesota’s first elected trans woman and Chair of the Minnesota Legislators Queer Caucus. "It is not up to school boards to decide whether to follow state law. Schools should foster an inclusive atmosphere where every student feels safe to express their identity. This includes respecting a student's chosen name and pronouns. These programs are not about political agendas; they're about ensuring all students feel safe, respected, and empowered to reach their full potential. I am proud of the passionate voices of our youth activists for advocating for a future where education is tailored to how students learn best, not based on biases." 

The budget standoff has sparked outrage from students, parents, and teachers who support the equity efforts. Hundreds gathered for a recent rally, urging the board to prioritize these programs. The district administration highlighted that many equity initiatives are mandated by state and federal law. These mandates aim to ensure all students have an equal opportunity to succeed, regardless of background. Opponents of the budget cuts argue that eliminating these programs could disproportionately impact marginalized students, hindering their right to a quality education. 

Without a budget passed by July 1st, the school district faces a potential shutdown, jeopardizing staff salaries and the upcoming school year.