MREA recognized Dr. Tom Melcher for his commitment and work on behalf of education with the 2015 Distinguished Service Award. Melcher has dedicated his professional career to high-quality service in financial formulas and reporting, along with equity in funding for students across Minnesota. He is the Director of the Program Finance Division at the Minnesota Department of Education.

MREA recognized Melcher at a luncheon on Nov. 16 at the MREA Annual Conference at Cragun’s in Brainerd. View a photo gallery of the event.

Melcher came to Minnesota from Florida in 1979, where he earned his Ph.D. in Educational Administration from the University of Florida. He now has 27 years of experience in the Program Finance Division and has directed a high-quality professional department under numerous Commissioners and Governors. His testimony to the legislature is both accurate and understandable, and his department turns out multiple reports including K-12 Education Finance Overview and Minnesota School Finance History 1849-2011.

He has instituted Strata analysis to display the impact of funding decisions on districts of various sizes in Greater Minnesota and in the suburbs and cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. This is very helpful to identify funding trends as well as the cumulative effects of legislative action on the funding formula.

From November 2011 through December 2012, Dr. Melcher was lead staff for the Education Finance Working Group. The group’s final report led to increased funding for special education, a reform of pupil accounting, and a local school board-authorized referendum of $300 per pupil which is highly equalized. Dr. Melcher then presented to the legislature and was a critical resource in providing runs and analysis to the 2013 legislature.

In 2013, Dr. Melcher was lead staff for the School Facilities Finance Working Group. This group’s report led to the passage of Long-Term Facility Maintenance funding in the 2015 legislature. Without Dr. Melcher’s analysis, the task force report would not have been so well received, providing the groundwork for the 2015 legislation.

The analysis and effort of these two working groups, their reports, the presentations to the legislature, and the attention to detail in their implementation are the hallmark of distinguished service to students all across Minnesota — an especially critical service for rural students and the school districts which educate them.