In overwhelming numbers, Minnesota superintendents say the state education funding formula is broken and without changes education quality will diminish, according to Minnesota 2020’s latest survey of school administrators.
“To maintain a high level of academic achievement in a time of shrinking state funding, school districts have cut around the edges, but after nearly a decade of underfunding and recent delayed state payments, it’s getting difficult to keep cuts out of classrooms,” superintendents report in the survey sent to them at the end of the 2010-11 school year.
According to new Minnesota Department of Education data, the statewide average inflation-adjusted per-pupil state aid will have declined by an estimated 12.8 percent from 2003 levels by the 2012-13 school year.
In addition to cuts, underfunding has forced districts to rely on operating levies to make ends meet, putting a greater burden on local property taxpayers. Ninety percent of districts in Minnesota are under a levy.
In FY 2003, the average statewide levy was $491 per-pupil. By FY 2013, the average inflation-adjusted levy is projected to be $1,157 per-pupil, a $666 increase using 2003 dollars. That doesn’t account for future levies between now and FY 2013. The Minnesota Association of School Administrators estimates 133 districts (more than a third of all districts in the state) are considering levies, the greatest number in at least a decade.
The current funding model, with its greater reliance on regressive property taxes and recent funding delays creates significant financial instability, reducing schools’ ability to effectively plan into the future.
Superintendents expressed two clear messages for state education policymakers: Increase base level funding. Stop delaying school payments to balance the state budget.
The last decade’s education funding trend demonstrates the fallacy of no-new-tax policy. In order to adequately fund our schools, the state must properly balance its general fund budget by pairing revenue increases with cuts to non-educational services.
Education is an investment in our state’s economic future, and Minnesota needs to take this investment seriously if it wants to continue prospering.