Schools struggle as education funding declines

/ 2 November 2012 / eunice

Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch, Nov. 2, 2012 – Education funding fails to keep up with total personal income, falling 17 percent in the past 17 years, according to a data analysis from the Minnesota Department of Education released by the MREA [MN Rural Education Association]. The analysis of data of education funding as a percentage of total personal income shows a decline of $2.1 billion from 1995 to 2013.

“That means if Minnesota today was investing in K-12 education at the same rate as a percentage of total personal income as it did in 1994-95, there would be an additional $2.1 billion working for kids in our state than we are currently investing in our children,” MREA Executive Director Fred Nolan said. “We have heard from educators and school administrators across the state and the effects are staggering.”

Even schools with rising enrollment such as Dover-Eyota are struggling to receive the funding they need for staffing, infrastructure and equipping students with the tools and technology they need in the 21st century. In many cases, districts across the state have had to make dramatic program reductions.

“I have serious concerns about the condition of educational infrastructure across the state of Minnesota,” said Bruce A. Klaehn, superintendent of Dover-Eyota Public Schools and member of MREA. “Many schools are delaying replacements and maintenance while they cross their fingers that these decisions do not lead to major problems. In Dover-Eyota, we are doing our best to stay ahead of these needs, but I am concerned that we are losing the long-term battle in some cases.”

“The state of Minnesota has had a long tradition of equitably financing public education, but in the last decade that proud tradition has eroded, largely due to the state’s elimination of the of the general education levy in 2001,” Nolan said.

MREA worked with Tom Melcher, director of School Finance at MDE, and the Office of Management and Budget for the data, in response to a discussion by the Education Finance Working Group. MREA will host a School Finance Update and listening session with Melcher on Nov. 12 at its Annual Conference.

The Price of Government is defined as total state and local revenues as a percentage of total Minnesota personal income. It reflects how much of each dollar earned goes for state and local government. State law requires that the Governor recommend and the legislature adopt targets for the price of government. Minnesota Management & Budget reports on the actual and projected price of government at the February and November forecasts, with the Governor’s recommended budget, and at the end of each legislative session.