Garofalo hopes for change this legislative sessionAs the 2011 legislative session kicks off this week, Pat Garofalo is getting used to being a whole lot more popular around the capitol. Garofalo, the Farmington Republican who on Tuesday kicked off his fourth term in the state House of Representatives, said people started paying more attention to what he had to say once he was named chair of the state’s K-12 education finance committee.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
As the 2011 legislative session kicks off this week, Pat Garofalo is getting used to being a whole lot more popular around the capitol.
Garofalo, the Farmington Republican who on Tuesday kicked off his fourth term in the state House of Representatives, said people started paying more attention to what he had to say once he was named chair of the state’s K-12 education finance committee.
“As soon as I was named chairman, suddenly my jokes became funnier, I was better looking and I was much smarter,” Garofalo said. “When you gain power, people are prone to be more focused on kissing up to you.”
Garofalo said his family and friends keep him grounded, though. And he hopes his new position — and new Republican majorities in the House and Senate — will help him find support for education reforms he has backed for years.
Those reforms include fixing a funding formula Garofalo says short-changes districts like Farmington, giving school districts more control over how they spend their money and changing the tenure system so teachers’ job security is tied to their performance in the classroom rather than the years they have been on the job.
Garofalo would also like to see changes to teacher licensing to make it easier for people with applicable experience — but without the schooling teachers currently must have — to get into the classroom.
Those proposed reforms haven’t gone over well with Education Minnesota, the state teachers’ union, and Garofalo doesn’t expect them to be any more popular this time around. In a Twitter message Garofalo said he expects the union to be “absolutely apoplectic with the reform and change coming to Minnesota.” But he hopes for a different outcome this time around.
“The defenders of the status quo are entrenched and powerful, but I’m very confident we can work with Governor Dayton to get these reforms passed.”
If they happen, those reforms will have to come as school districts worry about the possibility of cuts to their budgets. With the state facing an estimated $6.3 billion budget deficit and education funding making up 40 percent of the state’s budget, many districts have started preparing for the possibility of cuts.
Garofalo doesn’t expect the situation to end up as bad as it currently looks. He believes an updated budget forecast to be released at the end of February will show a smaller deficit.
“We’re going to have to see what that February forecast looks like before we’re able to make any promises,” he said.
He hopes to focus on job creation to help the economy grow. He also supports an end to a ban on the construction of nuclear power plants in the state to spur energy production and create new jobs.
Overall, Garofalo expects a busy session.
“It’s jobs, education and just fighting for our district,” Garofalo said. “A lot of people in our state look at Farmington and Dakota County as a gigantic piggy bank, and every year they try to smash that piggy bank open.
“I’m trying to protect our area.”