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Declining Funding Degrading Quality

August 30, 2011 By Katie Douglass, Policy Associate

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In overwhelming numbers, Minnesota superintendents say the state education funding formula is broken and without changes education quality will diminish, according to Minnesota 2020's latest survey of school administrators.

"To maintain a high level of academic achievement in a time of shrinking state funding, school districts have cut around the edges, but after nearly a decade of underfunding and recent delayed state payments, it’s getting difficult to keep cuts out of classrooms," superintendents report in the survey sent to them at the end of the 2010-11 school year.

According to new Minnesota Department of Education data, the statewide average inflation-adjusted per-pupil state aid will have declined by an estimated 12.8 percent from 2003 levels by the 2012-13 school year.



In addition to cuts, underfunding has forced districts to rely on operating levies to make ends meet, putting a greater burden on local property taxpayers. Ninety percent of districts in Minnesota are under a levy.

In FY 2003, the average statewide levy was $491 per-pupil. By FY 2013, the average inflation-adjusted levy is projected to be $1,157 per-pupil, a $666 increase using 2003 dollars. That doesn’t account for future levies between now and FY 2013. The Minnesota Association of School Administrators estimates 133 districts (more than a third of all districts in the state) are considering levies, the greatest number in at least a decade.

The current funding model, with its greater reliance on regressive property taxes and recent funding delays creates significant financial instability, reducing schools’ ability to effectively plan into the future.

Superintendents expressed two clear messages for state education policymakers: Increase base level funding. Stop delaying school payments to balance the state budget.

The last decade’s education funding trend demonstrates the fallacy of no-new-tax policy. In order to adequately fund our schools, the state must properly balance its general fund budget by pairing revenue increases with cuts to non-educational services.

Education is an investment in our state’s economic future, and Minnesota needs to take this investment seriously if it wants to continue prospering.

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  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    September 6, 2011 at 9:45 am

    First of all, I do agree that we need to quit kicking the can down the road with delayed payments. As for the opinions of our 133 overpaid Superintendents, one of the first things I would support is eliminating the State mandate requiring these change agents in our districts, they are not needed. That is most especially true in our smaller and rural districts. Second, legislative oversite of our education system must be stripped from our legislature and returned to local control along with almost all funding control. Third, all sports activities must be removed from education funding. Using our tax dollars to fund the colluseum that is killing and maiming our children at rates only second to teen auto accidents must end forthwith and be picked up by some seperate local community entity. Fourth, while I fully understand and support the need for some smaller school districts to be subsidized by the State, we need a new formula that takes the carrot and the stick away from the State. Fifth, we need to eliminate everything but coop buying functions from the State Dept. of Ed., that means all federal connections to include the regional education labs. Sixth, we need to return to the competition between districts model we had before this socialist sewage so that we can objectively determine what curricula works and which teachers are effctive as well as which ones need help or removal. These 6 simple things return us to a quality education system in short order.

  • Ross Reishus says:

    September 17, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    The two biggest budget problems that exist right now, aside from the continued shrinking amount invested, are these:

    1. When schools are funded on a % of student population, that puts the high cards in the hands of the already large districts.

    2.  This idea of competition.  An already larger district has a leg up on the smaller ones, so right from the start, its unrealistic and stacked against rural districts.

    Get rid of this kind of thinking and you have the beginnings of actual, meaningful, and effective reform.

  • Penny says:

    October 6, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    It would seem you would be most happy with a system of private school only.  However, public education is good for the country so I hope you and folks who agree with your ideas about education are not successful.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    October 7, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    Penny, I would be happy to have back the public education system we had prior to the supposed education reform movement. I am talking about prior to teachers unions when my Aunts taught under the old Independent School District system when we were #1 or 2 and world renouned rather than “World Class” which has been a synonym for masive failure.

  • Alicia says:

    March 6, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Thanks, Eric I’ll have to read more thoroughly later, but at a quick first gnalce they both look excellent: on the level, easy to read, and full of solid advice.

  • Eric Andersen says:

    September 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    The districts that are really feeling the budget crunch are the rural districts.  Our district’s state funding has been cut by 20% adjusted for inflation and we have virtually no chance of passing a levy in our community.  Class sizes in the high 20s in elementary, mid 30s in the middle, and low 40s at the high school.  Combine big class sizes with with cuts to classroom budgets, my middle school science budget is $50 per class, and rural students are going to be getting a much different education than those in suburban districts.  Don’t blame teacher salaries: The percent of Minnesota school district budgets going to teacher salaries has declined almost 2% in the last 6 years.