Equity & Adequacy

Media coverage of equity & adequacy in Minnesota.

During the 1970’s and 1980’s conversations about school finance focused on equity—the right of all children to have equal access to educational resources no matter where they live. The question wasn’t whether the amount being spent was enough, but rather just that every district have about the same amount.  In Minnesota, conversations about equalization and the resulting policy changes happened with the 1971 Minnesota Miracle.

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In the late 1980’s conversations began to focus on adequacy—asking for a clear definition of what we mean by a sound, basic public education and the funding required for all students to achieve at that level. “In 1988, 52 Minnesota districts brought suit over continued inequalities in funding. The state Supreme Court decided Skeen v. State in 1993, affirming education as a “fundamental right” but concluded that basic state funding at the time was adequate,” (MinnPost article).


“In the context of standards-based reform, ‘adequacy’ means providing sufficient funding so schools are able to provide the programs and services necessary for each student to achieve state and federal student performance expectations.”

John Myers, National Consultant on Public School Finance

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Fall 2011 Equity Update: The disparities between districts are growing
The funding disparities between districts have grown significantly since the state took over school funding in 2003.

Fall 2011 Adequacy Update: Declining state support for Minnesota schools raises concerns about adequacy
Between 2003 and 2011, the rate of inflation has been more than twice the rate at which education funding has grown.

Learn more

Additional Resources

From Parents United:

Minnesota School Finance History, Minnesota Department of Education. Describes six phases of Minnesota public school funding, April 2012.

1849–1915: Local Property Tax Supplemented with State Flat Grants
1915–1956: Local Property Tax Supplemented with State Flat Grants and Limited State Equalization Aid
1957-1971: Foundation Program with Minimum Aid Provision and State Share Below 50 Percent
1971–1991: Foundation Program with State Share Exceeding 50 Percent
1991–2000: Foundation Program Supplemented with Referendum and Debt Service Equalization
2001: Full State Funding of Basic Formula with Two-Tiered Equalization of Operating Referendum and Debt Service Levies

Options for General Education Formula Changes to Limit Revenue Disparities– An annual report to the Legislature required by Minnesota Statute 127A.5, Minnesota Department of Education.

Education Equity and Revenue Data, Schools for Equity in Education.

A Region Apart: A look at challenges and strategies for rural K-12 schools – Rural schools have different and unique sets of hurdles to overcome, largely due to factors not faced by most urban and suburban schools: declining enrollment, an aging taxpayer base, and distance, distance, distance. The intent of this research, therefore, is to present solutions, or at the very least, recommendations for changes that could be made to help maintain and improve student achievement while not increasing cost, Center for Rural Policy and Development, April 2009.

Association of Metropolitan School Districts

  • A tale of two states… – Adequacy study in Pennsylvania results in new funding formula; Minnesota’s adequacy study recommendations in need of action, AMSD Connections, October 2008.
  • Education Funding – What’s the Real Story? – Funding increase provided to schools was actually about 3 percent for the current school year and less than 1 percent for next year. Absent a supplemental funding package, school districts across the state will be forced to implement significant budget cuts next fall, AMSD Connections (page 2), February 2008.
  • Increasing Fees Result of Inadequate Funding, AMSD Connections, April 2006.

The Funding Gaps 2006 – School finance policy choices systematically shortchange low-income and minority students, Education Trust, December 2006. The 2006 analysis (based on 2003-2004 numbers), showed:

  • Minnesota ranked 20th in federal Title I dollars (30 states received fewer dollars per child in poverty)
  • In 26 of 49 states, the highest poverty school districts receive fewer resources than the lowest poverty districts. Not so in Minnesota, which ranked 3rd for putting dollars in high-poverty school districts.
  • In 28 states, high-minority districts received less state and local money for each child than low-minority districts. Not so in Minnesota, which ranked 6th for putting dollars in high-minority school districts.

The Funding Gap 2005: Low-Income and Minority Students Shortchanged by Most States – Minnesota lauded for putting the dollars where they’re most needed, Education Trust, December 2005.

“In the nation as a whole, we spend approximately $900 less per year on each student in the school districts with the most poor students than we do in the school districts with the fewest poor students—a gap effectively unchanged over the six years that the Education Trust has examined state and local funding for education. Fortunately, not all states make the same choice. Indeed, some states—Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Jersey among them—have chosen to spend more on schools serving concentrations of poor children. But as this report shows, not enough states have made those kinds of choices.”

The Effects of Funding Education through Fixed Per-Pupil Funding Formulas: Evidence of Resource Inequality between Large and Small Schools – Survey of Minnesota public school superintendents finds: Small school districts had significantly lower quality levels compared to larger school districts in many key areas of infrastructure and technology; smaller school districts had much more difficulty than larger school districts in attracting and retaining teachers; and the disparities between small and large school districts are even larger when one compares the low referendum small districts with other school districts in the state, American Political Science Association, August 2006.

Equity Issues in the State of Minnesota School Finance (MS Word), University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, March 2005.


School Finance:  What Parents Should Know About: School Funding, Parent Press, Parents for Public Schools, September 2011.

Beyond Bake Sales – Parents shell out hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year for services once covered by state and local education budgets, Edutopia, George Lucas Educational Foundation, December 2005.

A Guide to Public Engagement and School Finance Litigation – Lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of public school funding systems are currently in progress in 23 states, representing a unique opportunity to restructure the ways in which public education is financed and expand the opportunities and resources available to children across the country, Public Education Network, June 2005.

“Court-Mandated Change: An Evaluation of the Efficacy of State Adequacy and Equity Indicators” – Bookmarked at Developments in School Finance: 2003 (left sidebar) – A compilation of papers presented at the 2003 annual NCES Summer Data Conference, August 2004.

(Updated 6/2012)