Minnesota House Ways and Means Chair Jim Knoblach, St. Cloud School Board Member Bruce Hentges and MREA Executive Director Fred Nolan testified to the need to address the growing special education cross subsidy in Minnesota and their support of HF 4272.

When introducing the bill to the House Education Finance Committee, Rep. Knoblach shared that it aims to reduce the special education cross subsidy in some of the school districts in the state with the highest cross subsidies in the state. There is a great variation in the cross subsidy, and St. Cloud has very high costs due to its being a regional center where parents move when the have children with significant disabilities, he said.

“The special education cross-subsidy has reached a crisis point for many districts in Minnesota,” School Board Member Bruce Hentges testified. “The St. Cloud School District carries one of the highest per pupil cross-subsidies in the state. The cross-subsidy in St. Cloud for the 2017-18 school year is $11,659,700.  That means that nearly $12 million is unavailable for programming for regular education students.”  Read the St. Cloud Times story on St. Cloud’s Cross Subsidy

Fred Nolan pointed out that the cross subsidy doesn’t exist in isolation.  It is the dollars directed to meet the IEP required services from the formula.  A way to conceive its effect is to take the formula minus the cross subsidy to arrive at the ‘effective formula,’ what is available to meet the educational needs of roughly 85 percent of the students.

Two of the districts with the lowest effective formulas are Minneapolis with over 35,000 students and an effective formula of $4,413, and Ivanhoe with 82 students and an effective formula of $4,451, he said.  The gap in effective formulas from lowest to highest for 2016-17 was $1,654 or 24 percent of the formula.

No one intended this inequity, and HF 4272/SF 3861 seeks to raise that effective formula for districts with excessive cross subsidies.

View Issue Brief on HF 4272/SF 3861

View impact by school district.

All three testifiers agreed this is not a solution and all look for a task force to provide longer term approaches to reduce the cross subsidy.

“When I was in Boy Scouts, I learned in First Aid to ‘stop the bleeding and call for help.’  This is a “stop the bleeding” bill,” Nolan said.

Both Scott Croonquist of the Association of Metropolitan School Districts AMSD and Brad Lundell on behalf of the Schools for Equity in Education SEE and the Minnesota Administrators for Special MASE testified in support of HF 4272 and thanked Rep. Knoblach for bringing it forward.

With the House Education Target of $30.23 million for student safety through school safety improvements and mental health programming, it is pretty clear that HF 4272 will not be in Chair Loon’s omnibus education funding bill expected on Monday. That doesn’t mean it won’t emerge later in the process, perhaps tweaked.  Stay in touch by following MREA on Twitter (@mreavoice) or at MREAvoice.org

The only other SPED proposal this sessions was presented by Gov. Dayton.  Learn more