When MREA first formed in 1985, there was a significant gap in funding between what metro area and rural public schools received in Minnesota. MREA immediately went to work to bring legislative attention to the issue.
For 35 years, MREA has developed strategies and partnered with legislators to enact changes to close gaps so that all students in Minnesota receive equitable educational opportunities.
“Without MREA, I think rural schools today would be in a serious situation,” said Harold Remme, former rural superintendent and founding MREA board member who advocated for closing the gap.
See how it has unfolded in this video:
Key Data Point
MREA has brought a key data point to legislators to help assess funding gaps for schools. It’s known as the 5th to 95th percentiles and illustrates what the most funding and least funded school districts in the state receive. Over the past 35 years, that gap has been as large as 30-40 percent.
“MREA has done a great job of looking at data, doing the analysis and determining where funding gaps exist, because they exist all over the place in the school finance system,” MREA Director of Legislative Affairs Sam Walseth said. “We really pay a lot attention to those gaps, and then bring that to the attention of legislators and urge them to take action to close those gaps.”
Strategies & Solutions
MREA has focused on narrowing the gap to ensure all students in Minnesota receive a fair share of education funding.
“MREA is for all students in the state,” said Jerry Ness, a former school superintendent and MREA executive director and board member. “We’re not just for rural education, but we’re certainly there to make sure that we get the fair share.”
Among the strategies that MREA led and collaborated with legislators on was the closing of the “donut hole” through the development of Local Optional Revenue (LOR). Through LOR, enacted in 2013-14, schools can gain operating dollars to help schools pay the bills, cover teacher salaries, keep class sizes small and continue programs.
“We were in that donut hole and an MREA was very instrumental in getting the donut hole closed and bringing about the local operate optional revenue that,” said Luther Heller, superintendent of Montevideo Public Schools. “It really became crucial. That money translates into programs and benefits for our students.”