Equalization has taken center stage at the legislature for good reason. Minnesota’s Constitution (Article 13) states “it is the duty of the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools… The legislature shall make such provisions by taxation or otherwise as will secure a thorough and efficient system of public schools throughout the state.” The 1993 Minnesota Supreme Court in Skeen v. State of Minnesota wrote “Education is a fundamental right in Minnesota.”
The most general and uniform system is direct state aid as in the current basic formula $5,276. Because of the inadequacy of the basic formula, schools depend on property taxes for many purposes. Therefore, the equalization of tax effort for school property tax levies, including operating referendums, is the second most important tool to establish a general and uniform system of public schools.
Equalization of tax levies has a long history in Minnesota. Tom Melcher, MDE Finance Director, provided the Senate E-12 Division of the Finance Committee a thorough report on equalization, including its history, the current formulas, and charts showing the relative degree of equalization over the past 25 years.
MREA recommends members review this report to understand the current conversations and dynamics at the capitol and to recognize the importance of addressing this subject in a thorough manner in this session after a decade of neglect. Learn what’s happening with equalization now and get a behind the scenes view from MREA Lobbyists Sam Walseth and Vernae Hasbargen.