Teachers and parents marched to the corporate offices of US Bank, Wells Fargo, Securian and Ecolab in downtown Saint Paul calling for corporations to pay their fair share of taxes to fund public schools.
“Securian used loopholes and tax havens to avoid paying federal and state income taxes last year,” said Nick Faber, President of the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers (SPFT) which organized the event. “They should be paying St. Paul public schools about $800,000 more through property taxes. US Bank should be paying about $350,000 more per year more.”
The SPFT maintains that funding for public schools in Minnesota has declined since 2003.
Meanwhile these and other companies benefit from Tax Increment Finance (TIF) deals from the city of Saint Paul, reducing the amount of property taxes they pay to fund public schools, and upsetting community priorities.
“US Bank doesn’t pay its fair share but they have invested $40 million to finance private prisons,” continued Faber. “Wells Fargo avoids paying $35 million per year in Minnesota income tax, yet they are one of the largest shareholders in private prison companies. Imagine if there was $40 million dollars for restorative justice in our schools. Which do you want, prisons or restorative justice?”
Educators were joined by members of the Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL), Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, MN350, Minnesotans for a Fair Economy and others. Together they highlighted the community impact caused by tax loopholes and the investment calculations of large corporations. Schools that primarily serve students of color and low-income students feel the underfunding most of all.
“I’ve seen how our educational system has failed our students of color and that’s just not right,” Black Lives Matters member Hani Ali told the marchers. “I’ve seen brilliant students unable to reach their potential simply because they were not given the resources to succeed. Racial bias and corporate power should not hinder the success of our students but that’s what’s happening all over the Twin Cities.”
Members of MN350 contrasted the $35 million in state taxes Wells Fargo’s avoids paying each year to its pipeline investments.
“Every being on this planet deserves clean water,” added Water Protector activist and Harding High School student Miiskogihmiiwan Poupart-Chapman. “But oil spills are contaminating our water and destroying our earth. As humans, we shouldn’t allow pipelines and rich corporations to destroy our precious environment.”
The march culminated with a rally at St. Paul’s Hamm Plaza, across from Ecolab, where speakers charged that Ecolab avoids paying taxes on over $2.1 billion in profits by using offshore tax havens.
“When they don’t pay their fair share,” said Kirinda Anderson who has a child at Wellstone Elementary,“ they’re depriving kids like my daughter the education that she needs and that other children need to be successful. That’s not fair and this isn’t by accident. When I see rich corporations getting richer at the expense of my child’s school, I’m going to call it what it is: systematic racism. That’s not the school system that our children deserve. “
SPFT called on corporations to be good neighbors and pay their fair share of taxes so that public schools can afford to hire more mental health professionals, provide universal preschool, and expand restorative practices in our schools.
“I want restorative practices, not a school to prison pipeline,” Anderson told the crowd. “I want a counselor with a hug and social worker with a listening ear, not a cop with a gun in my kid’s school. These companies are investing millions to bring the Super Bowl to town. They can spend millions on our schools as well.”