It’s for the Children
Since my first day on the Hennepin County Board, I’ve been hearing regularly about how the county has cut the fat out of government and is now cutting into bone; that the Governor has decimated county aid to such an extent that we can no longer adequately provide even some of the basic functions of county government.
The problem with that assertion, of course, is the same problem that exists when the argument is used about government budgets at nearly every level: If decision-makers would learn to prioritize and spend less money on those things that are NOT basic functions of government, it would be much easier to fund those things that ARE basic functions of government.
My first Golden Fire Hydrant award (which I will bestow on occasion to those spending programs or projects that interfere with our ability to adequately fund the basics of Hennepin County government) goes to a Hennepin County teen pregnancy program providing county taxpayer dollars for sex education teachers in the Richfield and Brooklyn Center public schools.
Let me first say, I am not a prude. For example, I had that Farah Fawcett swimsuit poster in my room in Junior High. In addition, my wife and I kissed several times (ON THE LIPS) before we were married. But I digress. Back to the sex ed teachers.
Let’s set aside for a moment the curriculum debate (“abstinence only” versus “comprehensive” sex ed); that’s not my issue here. I’ll also pass on debating whether the program’s practice of teaching teenagers that sex is only safe with a condom and then telling them where to get free condoms might actually have some negative consequences. Instead, let us simply focus on the fact that a county (which is supposedly broke) is paying for teachers in the public schools. Granted, it’s only two half-time teachers and represents a miniscule amount in our county budget, but there are oodles of miniscule amounts like this and they do start to add up over time.
Simply put, public school teachers in Minnesota are paid by school districts, not counties. If we in Hennepin County followed that simple rule, we’d have a little more money available for those basic county services that I’m told we can no longer afford.