Rising Costs

October 2009 – Public Recognizes That Schools Have Been Under-Funded – Each year Phi Delta Kappan teams up with the Gallup polling organization to survey American opinions on public schools. People were asked the following open ended question: “What do you think are the biggest problems that the public schools of your community must deal with?” Almost one third of those surveyed said the biggest problem facing public schools is a lack of funding, AMSD Connections (page 3).

June 27, 2006 – State Auditor Releases Report on School District and Charter School Finances– Enrollment Decline Continues, Costs Increase, Minnesota Office of the State Auditor.

In June 2005, the Office of the Minnesota State Auditor produced the report, Financial Trends of Minnesota School Districts and Charter Schools For the period 2000 to 2004.

Key Findings

The report analyzes school district finances from 2000 to 2004. It examines key factors that drive costs in education as well as revenue and expenditure trends. The report’s key findings include the following:

  • Enrollment Declines Slightly, Spending Increases—Between 2000 and 2004, total operating expenditures of public school districts and charter schools increased an average of 18 percent, growing from $6.1 billion to $7.2 billion. Because enrollment declined slightly during these years, per pupil spending showed an even larger increase—20 percent.
  • Major Cost Drivers—The report identifies five major factors driving the increase in total education spending. Especially noteworthy are a 31 percent increase in special education spending and a 32 percent increase in benefits paid to school employees. (chart)
  • Class Sizes—The average number of students per teacher increased in regular school districts but decreased in charter schools. For school districts with more than 1,000 students, the ratio increased from 16.2 to 16.8. School districts with fewer than 1,000 students saw their ratio increase from 10.8 to 13.1. For charter schools, the ratio decreased from 16.9 students per teacher in 2000 to 14.2 in 2004.
  • Increase in Special Population Students—While overall enrollment declined in Minnesota’s public schools, the number of students classified in various subgroups of total enrollment increased. Between 2000 and 2004, the number of minority students increased 22 percent, the number of non-English speaking students increased 50 percent, the number of students receiving special education services increased 6 percent, and the number of students classified as low-income increased 8 percent.

Additional Resources

May 2006 – Public Pensions in Minnesota: Re-Definable Benefits and Under-Reported Performance, Minnesota Taxpayers Association Center for Public Finance Research.

September 2005 – School Funding: Facts and Figures (Power Point) (pdf), Association of Metropolitan School Districts:

  • The Percent of Districts with Operating Referendum has Grown Significantly.
  • Of the $800 million in new funding for schools, $139 million is projected to come from local levies.
  • Of this, the Minnesota Department of Education expects that $31.7 million will come from the passage of new referenda.