With a two billion dollar budget surplus, the Minnesota legislature is poised to pass inadequate budgets that will force schools across the state to cut teachers and programs. In the House, Republicans have passed an education budget that increases per-pupil state aid by six-tenths of one percent. That’s far below the rate of inflation, and comes on top of years of failure to keep up with inflation. The DFL Senate does barely any better, with a one percent increase.
From rural Litchfield, the Independent Review headlines “Budget ax hits eight teachers.” The article quotes Litchfield school superintendent Dan Frazier explaining that eight teachers and a half-time social worker have to go:
“[I]t is a gosh darn lousy plan,” Frazier said. “This is not what we want to be doing. It is not what we support, but it’s a simple case of it’s what has to be done because this is what the state is forcing on us.”
The impact on students?
“We are very concerned about class size. However, we’re also going to be in the situation where class size is going to soar over the next two years because the state isn’t funding us to keep class size down,”
In suburban Wayzata, a Sun-Sailor opinion column summarizes the impact:
“A 3 percent increase in the per-pupil formula would allow most districts, including Wayzata, to keep up with inflation with no new programs or improvements.
“With the less than inflationary 1 percent general education formula increase currently being proposed, Wayzata Public Schools will be faced with a $3.2 million shortfall in the 2015-16 school year and approximately an additional $3 million for 2016-17. …
“Since 2003, the annual percentage increases in the formula have been 0, 0, 4, 4, 2, 1, 0, 0, 1, 1, 1.5 and 2 percent. If the formula had simply kept pace with inflation since 2003, it would be $1,300 per pupil higher today.”
The writers go on to say that a $3.2 million shortfall “is equivalent to the cost of approximately 50 full-time teachers.”
Julie Pritchard, chair of the Northfield school board, explains in the Northfield News:
“School districts receive over 70 percent of their total revenue from the state in the form of the General Fund Basic Formula. This money is used to pay for teachers, transportation, classroom materials and other basic operating expenses and is calculated on a per-pupil basis. …
“To meet the most basic needs of Minnesota’s public schools, the legislature must provide a 3 percent increase on the General Fund Basic Formula in each year of the biennium budget. Currently the House, Senate and Governor’s proposals call for a 1 percent increase or less.”
Parents United for Public Schools wants to send a message to the legislature and the governor that the budget targets are not enough. They are asking for 37 percent of the state’s two billion dollar budget surplus for schools, to make up for years of falling behind. They invite supporters to join at the State Office Building Press room 181, hallways and front steps on Monday, May 4 at 10 a.m.