Minnesota’s education investment is abysmal


Since 1995, Minnesota has gone from being 15th among the states in what it spends on K-12 education to 42nd, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Concurrently, Minnesota dropped from 12th to 37th in all state, federal and local revenue it brings in for K-12 education when measured by amount per $1,000 in personal income.

Census Bureau data also shows that spending and revenue per $1,000 of personal income dropped steadily since 1995, but remained roughly parallel to one another throughout that time.

For years, lawmakers and conservative rabble-rousers have complained that Minnesota’s educators have been reckless with how they spend taxpayer dollars. They claim that money is wasted, that budgets are broken, that administrators don’t spend within the community’s needs.

This information proves those allegations false. Educators have done an excellent job of keeping their budgets in line with the diminishing revenue provided by lawmakers.

The rankings come from Public Education Finances by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Local Government Finances – School Systems. The annual publication contains the above information in “Table 12: States Ranked According to Relation of Elementary-Secondary Public School System Finance Amounts to $1,000 Personal Income.” The revenue figures include all federal, state and local revenue and the spending figures are for district’s general operating funds for public, private and charter schools.

Minnesota’s nosedive is no accident. For years, state lawmakers have paid lipservice to education funding while cutting away at what school districts actually have to spend. While claiming to help education, lawmakers have cut state aid to education an inflation-adjusted 13 percent since the 2003 “takeover” of public education funding. State aid was supposed to fund all but the “extras” in Minnesota’s schools.

That plan lasted about two years, after which the state slashed aid to schools. This led school districts to plead with voters through property tax levies to keep schools running, which in turn required school administrators to become less educators and more cheerleaders and campaign managers. Many voters said yes to levy increases, some said no. In total, federal, state and local revenue for education has dropped an inflation-adjusted 4 percent since 2003.

This is no way to run an education system. Our children deserve better than to be ranked among the bottom of the states in spending and revenue. If Minnesota is to compete for jobs in the 21st century marketplace against states like Massachusetts or countries like Japan or Norway, Minnesota needs a clear investment strategy, and the key to that investment is education.

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