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Minnesota school funding falls $1 billion short

Fri, Dec 9th, 2005
Posted in Commentary

Financial experts announced last week that based upon the educational resources needed to meet federal law and state standards for student achievement, Minnesota schools are underfunded by nearly $1 billion annually.

The study, “Determining the Cost of Education in Minnesota,” is based on findings contained in the 2004 Governor’s Education Funding Reform Task Force.

According to No Child Left Behind federal laws and Minnesota state requirements, all children must meet proficiency standards.

In order to provide adequate resources to accomplish these mandates, Minnesota schools would need an additional $953 million each year, according to the Myers funding study.

The report was authored by John Myers, a nationally recognized education finance expert with Augenblick, Palaich and Associates.

As state president of Minnesota PTA, I attended the landmark presentation on December 2, 2005 in St. Louis Park with other state leaders of education and advocacy groups. Minnesota PTA is the largest and oldest child advocacy organization in the state. We track all legislation, state policy and emerging trends dealing with children and schools.

I am pleased that the cost of educating a child in Minnesota has been rationally identified. This figure gives us a dollar target to address. However, as the Minnesota State Senate candidate for District #31, I believe that we must have careful conversations about this across Fillmore, Houston, and Winona counties so that sensible funding reform will result.

According to Myers, “Phase I of the study reveals a significant gap between the investment Minnesota has been making in education and what is required in order for students to meet the state’s own academic standards.”

He recommends that school funding should be based on the mandated standards and what it will take to have every child succeed.

The new funding mechanism would not only provide adequate funding for high-cost, high-risk students, but districts would no longer be forced to dip into regular education funds and programming to subsidize mandated services.

The funding formula would be rationally linked to student learning, rather than based simply on the availability of state funds. In other words, the funding formula would be standards-based.

I applaud the shift to a standards-based funding formula.

The best news is that education budgets must be linked to a formula based on student needs and academic standards. The legislature must also reform education finance in a way that stops shifting the tax burden to local property owners. Tax fairness is essential. This billion dollar gap comes at a time when Minnesota taxpayers have just seen an average twenty percent education increase on their property taxes.

“Determining the Cost of Education in Minnesota” was commissioned by the Association of Metropolitan School Districts (AMSD), the Minnesota Rural Education Association (MREA), and Schools for Equity in Education (SEE).The three education organizations represent approximately 80 percent of Minnesota’s public school students.

Sharon Erickson Ropes of Winona is a candidate for the Minnesota State Senate, District #31.

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