As a government agency, we are dependent on the decisions made by the state and federal governments. Our school board and administration actively seek to influence outcomes in regard to education during the legislative session, in particular our state legislature, where a majority of our funding is determined.
While we have many needs, one of our primary funding priorities is to see consistent, annual increases on the basic general education formula. The basic general education formula is the dollar amount that is allocated to school districts each year on a per pupil basis. The general education formula is the backbone of a school district's budget and determines its ability to adequately fund programs and services for students. The formula allowance for fiscal year 2015 is $5,831.
Like everyone else, school districts deal with inflation on an annual basis. The general education formula approved by the legislature has not always kept pace with inflation. This inflation graph shows the gap between inflation and funding for schools since 2003.
Minnesota has always attempted to fund its schools because of the espoused value we have on education as a state. Still, we rank 24th in the nation in the degree to which we fund our schools. While our state often boasts the highest ACT scores in the nation, we also have the highest achievement gap in the nation. We can and must do better.
The Governor, the House, and the Senate spending targets for the next biennium all inadequately provide for an increase in the basic general education formula. The Governor's budget proposes a 1% increase on the formula. Inflation alone is projected to be at 1.3 and 1.8% in the next biennium, showing a 1% increase will hurt school districts, including ours. His largest investment would be to fully fund four-year old preschool. I would in no way suggest that funding for preschool is not important. It is very important. That said, funding universal four-year old pre-school must also be accompanied by a 3% increase in the K-12 education formula in order to ensure we do not defund K-12 education for the sake of pre-school education.
We cannot add an entire grade level of students (four-year olds) if we are not fully funding the 13 grades already part of the K-12 budget. It should not be an either or proposition. If, however, there is not enough money to fund both the formula and universal pre-school, a reasonable solution would be to increase the formula, and increase the number of preschool scholarships based on economic and academic need. This would go a long way in supporting the growth of our early learning program. And it would help the students who need it most.
There are many other things in the education spending targets that are very important, and I regret that I don't have space to go into those here. While I've only highlighted two of the most important, the other areas are very important as well. And areas outside of education are important for our state. But I have chosen to share with you two high-profile areas that are worth fighting for:
- We must see a 3% increase on the basic general education formula.
- We must move towards fully funding four-year old preschool, preferably at 100%.
Senator Jim Metzen (West St. Paul and Mendota Heights) - firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Jim Carlson (Eagan) - click here for email form
Rep. Sandra Masin (51A; Eagan) - email@example.com
Rep. Laurie Halverson (52A; Eagan) - firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Rick Hansen (52A; WSP, MH, Mendota & Lilydale) - email@example.com
Rep. Joe Atkins - (52B; MH & Sunfish Lake) - firstname.lastname@example.org
Governor Mark Dayton - click here for email form
Senator Tom Bakk - www.senate.mn/senatorbakkemail
Representative Kurt Daudt - email@example.com
Representative Sondra Erickson - firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Chuck Wiger - www.senate.mn/senatorwigeremail
Representative Joyce Pepin - email@example.com
Representative Peggy Bennett - firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Alice Johnson - www.senate.mn/senatorjohnsonemail
Senator Sean Nienow - email@example.com
Representative Jennifer Loon - firstname.lastname@example.org
Representative Ron Kresha - email@example.com
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