MREA set the legislative platform identifying the key issues for E-12 students across Greater Minnesota. The 2021 platform focuses on addressing the immediate budget impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has caused on pupil counts and compensatory revenue for schools in addition to taking a long term view of where we want public education funding to go.
Members, representing about 230 public schools districts, 30 education service cooperatives and about 100 other advocates, approved the platform at the annual meeting in November. Learn more about the platform issues and key actions needed for the following:
- COVID-19 Relief
- Basic Education Revenue
- Teacher Shortages
- School Facilities Funding Tools
- School Readiness
- Special Education Funding
- Student Health & Safety
- Career & College Readiness Flexibility
Forecast & Outlook
The November budget forecast shows the direct impact COVID has had on schools as 12,600 students have vanished from school district pupil counts. The good economy in the fall of 2019 was cause for lower Free & Reduced Eligibility (FRE) counts, which are impacting school budgets this year. Additionally, free school meals this year had dropped the FRE application count substantially for many districts, which will show up as lost revenue next school year.
At the same time, many students will be in significant need of remediating the unfinished learning from this year. The net effect on the state’s budget is a $118 million in reduced spending on education this year and another $154 million estimated drop over the next two school years.
Stabilizing district budget through this time is job one. The Legislature now sees a $641 million positive balance, with $2.37 billion in state budget reserves still intact on June 30, 2021.
Longer term, the state faces a structural deficit and we don’t expect to see full employment until 2024. However, in order to help the state achieve full employment as we seek the world’s best workforce, funding for the education system must improve.
The recently released School Finance Work Group recommendations serve as a guide for many investments that should be made by the state to create a high quality public education system for all students, not one that is merely adequate for the majority of students and families.
The MREA platform includes several of the marquee components of the School Finance Work Group recommendations, including:
- An increase to Basic Education Revenue
- Funding through state aid
- Highly equalized board approved levy
The high equalized board approved levy builds off of the work done on Local Optional Revenue (LOR) as the state has failed to reconcile itself to the decisions made two decades ago that eliminated the general education levy.
The MREA platform continues to call for the need to help schools develop the next generation of teachers across rural Minnesota. Maintaining the commitments to special education and PreK learners is also called forth. Student safety and quality facilities round out the key components of the 2021 MREA platform.
Together, we will engage state officials in the work that we believe needs to be done as we recover from the pandemic and close the learning and opportunity gaps facing far too many students.