Student Opportunity Gaps

Identifying School Finance Issues

By October 5, 2012 No Comments

MREA has long supported greater state responsibility for covering the cost of educating Minnesota’s youth. The state of Minnesota has had a long tradition of equitably financing public education, but in the last decade that proud tradition has eroded, largely due to the state’s elimination of the of the general education levy in 2001.

Economic downturns and competition for support for public health care have caused a reduction in the average per capita contribution toward education.

MREA is currently working on its 2013 Legislative Platform and considering responses and proposals to address the following troubling trends:

  • Reduction in the average per capita contribution toward education
  • Basic formula has not kept up with inflation.
  • Increase in the special education cross-subsidy and the relationship to districts’ operating referendum levies

MREA shared a data analysis on school funding and discussed these trends at the Fall Area Meetings. View the Area Meeting Presentation. View a District by District Cross Subsidies – Referendums Comparison.

During those sessions, members also discussed making major changes in two areas of state policy:

  • Re-create a general education levy by replacing several existing levies and a portion of operating referendum levies into a new general education levy. The Education Finance Reform Task Force, commissioned by Governor Dayton, has made this a priority. While the group’s proposal is complex, it seeks to hold current property tax burdens flat across districts.
  •  Enact a comprehensive tax reform. It’s been well documented that Minnesota’s tax system relies heavily on income tax revenue that fluctuates greatly depending on economic trends. The sales tax also is based on a 1960’s economic model of limited goods and few services. A modern sales tax system would encompass more services and additional goods such as clothing. A tax reform of this nature would go a long way in stabilizing and increasing state revenues that are needed to support education.