Shortchanging Minnesota schools — and kids

school busWith an almost two billion dollar state budget surplus, you’d think we could do great things for kids. But no — the Minnesota legislature proposes per-pupil school funding increases that are lower than inflation. Again. As it has done for 20 years.

Per-pupil funding is the basic funding that the state provides for all public schools: x dollars per student per year. Here’s a simple explanation from Parents United for Public Schools:

• The majority of money schools can use comes from this per pupil formula.

• The per pupil formula is an amount set by the legislature, not school boards, superintendents or principals.

• The per pupil formula is the same for each child across the state.

• Over the last 20 years the formula has increased on average less than HALF of inflation.

The Minnesota House Republican majority plans an increase of less than one percent in the per-pupil formula — 0.6 percent — and the Senate DFL majority proposes a one percent increase. Both fall far short of the projected two percent inflation rate. That means schools will have to make cuts, again.

Education is a big part of the state budget — about 40 percent. The House education bill includes not only the per-pupil funding but many smaller, designated programs, such as STEM education, achievement and integration aid, and preschool funding. The total amount is $16.9 billion. This includes $157 million in new spending — less than one percent overall.

The Senate DFL proposes about twice as large an increase — a total of $350 million in increased spending. Their proposal includes about a one percent per-pupil formula increase, bigger than the House Republican bill, but still far short of inflation. That is not enough. An increase that is below the inflation rate effectively cuts the amount available to schools. Parents United:

“[E]ither proposal means cuts to schools. An addition of 1% on the per pupil formula means major cuts to schools, .6% on the formula means even deeper cuts to opportunities for our kids. House and Senate spending targets are simply not enough.”

The per-pupil funding is just about maintaining the status quo. One of the big issues before this year’s legislature was supposed to be a massive increase in early childhood education, aimed at providing more educational opportunities for low-income families. I’ll look at what has happened to those big plans in the next post.

Oh, and if you’d like to tell someone what you think, here is contact info, courtesy of St. Paul Public Schools’ Call to Action:

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk 
5 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Capitol, Room 232
St. Paul, MN 55155-1606
Phone 651-296-8881
Email Form

Senate Finance Committee Chair Dick Cohen
5 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155-1606
Phone: 651-296-5931
Email Form 

E-12 Education Finance Chair Chuck Wiger
5 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Capitol, Room 205
St. Paul, MN 55155-1606
phone 651-296-6820
Email Form

House Speaker Kurt Daudt
463 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, Minnesota 55155
Phone 651-296-5364

House Education Finance Chair Jenifer Loon
449 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, Minnesota 55155
phone 651-296-7449

Governor Mark Dayton
Office of the Governor & Lt Governor
116 Veterans Service Building
20 W 12th Street
St. Paul, MN 55155
Phone 651-201-3400
Contact Form

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