School Funding

The Minnesota School Funding Story begins with the mandate to provide a “general and uniform system of education” as described in the State Constitution. Beginning in the 1970’s and 1980’s conversations about school finance focused on Equity & Adequacy. In 1971, Minnesota created the per pupil formula by dividing existing state funds by school enrollment through legislation called the Minnesota Miracle.

STATE FUNDS ÷ NUMBER OF STUDENTS = PER PUPIL FORMULA

Unfortunately, this aid was not connected in any way with what it actually costs to educate a child.

Since that time, so many layers of complexity have been added to the funding formula it has become practically incomprehensible. What’s more, costs rise over time due to inflation. School funding hasn’t kept pace with inflation. Though the budget rises every year, funding below inflation means declining state support  for schools–not an increase as it may appear. We’re seeing increasing disparities in funding between districts as well, renewing concerns about Equity & Adequacy. Parents United is working on School Funding Reform efforts to help Minnesota develop a sufficient, stable, sustainable school funding formula that is rationally linked to student learning.

Declining Funding, Degrading Quality – The foundation aid formula needs to be adjusted to provide better equity, accessibility, and stability to the entire funding process. The responsibility for providing the base educational program rests with the state government (by state constitution) and it needs to be consistent across the State of Minnesota, Minnesota 2020 (Full Report), August 2011. Stretching the School Dollar: A Brief for State Policymakers – Outlines 15 ways states can “stretch the school dollar” in these difficult financial times. It argues that budget cuts alone, without concurrent reforms, could set our schools back years. (Thomas B. Fordham Institute Full Report, January 2011). (Critique by Bruce Baker, an Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers).