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School District 197 Superintendent Blog
Welcome to my blog! The purpose of the blog is to provide an avenue for communication with parents and community members. I will be sharing our progress in implementing the District Strategic Framework. Periodically I will also post photos and share news of special events that I attend in our schools.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Funding Minnesota's Schools

Dear Staff, Friends, and Families of District 197,

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%.  
We live in a beautiful, democratic society where your voice matters.  We have met with our legislators, and all are committed to kids, and all are committed to our community.  I also believe they listen to you and count on your input.  Please make your voice heard and join me in urging our legislators to fully fund the backbone of our school funding, the basic general education formula, and doing everything we can to move towards universal four-year old preschool.  Their names and contact information are listed below.  I am also including the names and addresses of legislators who are in key leadership positions to influence the outcome of this important discussion, and I urge you to contact them as well.

Senator Jim Metzen (West St. Paul and Mendota Heights) - sen.jim.metzen@senate.mn
Senator Jim Carlson (Eagan) - click here for email form
Rep. Sandra Masin (51A; Eagan) - rep.sandra.masin@house.mn
Rep. Laurie Halverson (52A; Eagan) - rep.laurie.halverson@house.mn
Rep. Rick Hansen (52A; WSP, MH, Mendota & Lilydale) - rep.rick.hansen@house.mn
Rep. Joe Atkins - (52B; MH & Sunfish Lake) - rep.joe.atkins@house.mn

Governor Mark Dayton - click here for email form
Senator Tom Bakk - www.senate.mn/senatorbakkemail
Representative Kurt Daudt - rep.kurt.daudt@house.mn
Representative Sondra Erickson - rep.sondra.erickson@house.mn
Senator Chuck Wiger - www.senate.mn/senatorwigeremail
Representative Joyce Pepin - rep.joyce.peppin@house.mn
Representative Peggy Bennett - rep.peggy.bennett@house.mn
Senator Alice Johnson - www.senate.mn/senatorjohnsonemail
Senator Sean Nienow - sen.sean.nienow@senate.mn
Representative Jennifer Loon - rep.jenifer.loon@house.mn
Representative Ron Kresha - rep.ron.kresha@house.mn

Sincerely,

Nancy Allen-Mastro
Superintendent

Follow me on Twitter @Supt197