The Senate E-12 Finance Committee examined a bill Monday that would provide an increase to the education funding formula.
Committee chair Sen. Carla Nelson’s SF 1556 would increase the basic per-pupil formula allowance by 2 percent in each of the next two years.
This would equate to $6,188 per pupil in fiscal year 2018 and $6,312 per pupil in fiscal year 2019. (Funding is currently at $6,067 per pupil for fiscal year 2017.)
Sen. Nelson said overall the bill would increase education spending by $371 million over the next biennium.
“This is the bread and butter of school finance,” Sen. Nelson said. “This is the most fair way to fund education. Kids get the same amount, regardless of what school district they live in.”
Robbinsdale Area School Board member John Vento, Hopkins School Board member Betsy Anderson and Eden Prairie Superintendent Curt Tryggestad all testified in support of the funding bill.
While grateful to Sen. Nelson for the proposed increases, Vento reminded the committee that the funding formula is still not tied to inflation.
“We strongly support the 2 percent increases, but we still are 8.5 percent short from 2003, adjusted for inflation, which is about $553 per student,” Vento said. “There is more to be done.”
Anderson reminded the committee of the “constitutional obligation” the Legislature has for public schools. Citing Article XIII, Section 1, of the state constitution, she read: “It is the duty of the Legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools. The Legislature shall make such provisions by taxation or otherwise as will secure a thorough and efficient system of public schools throughout the state.”
Anderson said the 2 percent increases will help Hopkins and other Minnesota school districts, but it won’t eliminate budget cuts.
“We’ve had over a decade of not keeping up with inflation as far as funding is concerned,” she added. “Now is the time to make a commitment to public schools and the 850,000 students in Minnesota that attend those schools.”
Committee vice-chair Sen. Eric Pratt said he was pleased with the 2 percent increases for the “money in the classroom” — instead of new programs and entitlements.
The committee opted to lay the bill over for possible inclusion in the omnibus education bill.
The committee also heard SF 256, which would provide an income-tax credit to K-12 scholarships. Bill sponsor Sen. Roger Chamberlain said the bill would “establish a tax-credit system for parental choice of schools.”
“This bill takes private money and give it to parents to go toward a school of their choice,” Sen. Chamberlain said.
Vento, Anderson, Tryggestad and others testified in opposition to Chamberlain’s bill.
The committee approved the bill and referred it back to the Senate Taxes Committee.