Advocating for Greater Minnesota Schools

MREA members support expanding educational opportunities and closing achievement gaps in Minnesota in the following ways. MREA’s membership includes about 230 school districts, 30 education districts, special education and service cooperatives and additional associate members.

Immediate Needs

COVID Relief

  • Stabilize budgets of school districts as COVID-19 impacted student enrollment from the previous schools year to the current year
  • Address the loss of compensatory funding as students and families have stopped filling out Free & Reduced Eligible (FRE) applications due to free school meals this school year

Advocacy Accomplishments

We know that schools are stronger when they come together. We’ve seen the results.

View Accomplishments

2021 Key Issues

Basic Education Revenue

School funding has not kept up with inflation and the state has yet to fulfill its 2000 Plan. Minnesota’s public schools are now underfunded by about $658 per pupil. This has led districts to heavily rely on requesting taxpayer support through operating referendums.

Key Actions Needed:

  • Redefine formula to include both formula allowance and new Local Education Revenue” (LER), which would replace Local Optional Revenue with 80% from formula allowance and 20% from LER
  • Make total LER allowance $1,641
  • Increase by forecasted inflation of 2% per year over new base

Teacher Shortages

Schools across Greater Minnesota face a critical shortage of teachers, especially teachers of colors, in nearly all subjects. Each year, about 1,400 teachers retire with not enough new teachers gaining licenses to replace them.

Key Actions Needed:

  • Secure adequate, ongoing funding for grants, student teaching stipends, and loan forgiveness to attract and retain new teachers in rural areas
  • Expand Grow Your Own Teachers pilot programs for rural school districts and education cooperatives
  • Support the “Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers” legislative initiatives

School Facilities

Minnesota schools lack the finance tools to adequately ensure adequate facilities. There is a significant funding gap between school districts that receive Long Term Facility Maintenance and Alternative Facility districts. Ag2School has been critical for local support.

Key Actions Needed

  • Protect Ag2School: Continue tax credit for timber and agriculture landowners
  • Cooperative Facilities: Provide same access to lease levy for rural education cooperatives
  • Equalization: Add Debt Service Equalization for consolidated districts after 2021
  • Maintenance: Improve Long-Term Facility Maintenance for updates

School Readiness

Minnesota’s multiple categorical, competitive funding streams result in inequitable opportunities for children and impede the delivery of high quality preschool education for all. Rural communities lack affordable, high quality childcare programs.

Key Actions Needed

  • Streamline by consolidating Pathway II funds, Voluntary Pre-K and School Readiness Plus into the School Readiness account with consensus requirements
  • Ensure every district receives sufficient funding to provide all low income 4-year-olds at least 350 hours of service
  • Ensure a viable mixed delivery system with district’s reserving 40% for non-district 3- and 4-star rated providers
  • Direct school districts to verify and reimburse non-district star-rated providers
  • Release unused reserved funds to the school districts June 30 for their early learning programming

Special Education

School districts are responsible for providing Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for students qualifying for special education services. The lack of federal funding and state support have led the local ‘cross subsidy to grow to 12% of the general formula over the past decade and is projected to consume 15% within the next 10 years.

Key Actions Needed

  • Advocate that Congress increase federal support for special education
  • Increase special education funding to hold the cross subsidy per student constant in FY 2022
  • Eliminate the state portion of the cross subsidy in FY 2023 and later

 

 

Career & College Readiness

Minnesota faces a well-documented skilled-worker shortage and the current one-size fits all approach prevents schools from effectively preparing students for their future jobs.

Key Actions Needed

  • Oppose legislation requiring third science credit to be obtained through Earth Science
  • Re-examine high school course and standards requirements to align with state workforce needs and provide flexibility in Personal Learning Plans
  • Continue state funding for rural Career & Technical Education consortium grants
  • Expand ADM funding up to 0.25 pupil unit reimbursement for programming outside the traditional day

Student Health
& Safety

Schools face heightened needs to improve student safety and provide a robust array of services to meet rising mental health support. High-need students in rural areas lack access to well-designed spaces.

Key Actions Needed

  • Double Safe Schools Levy program to $72 per pupil with equalization for school districts, establish a $30,000 minimum for small districts and allow districts of cooperatives directly serving students to levy up to $15 per pupil for safety
  • Improve funding for school-linked mental health grants for provider continuity and stability of services
  • Restore funding for ongoing school-county collaboratives to provide mental health and related services

90% of members join – and stay – because of MREA’s ability to provide information about what’s happening at the Legislature and how it affects the district.