The School Finance Working Group met on Thursday, February 20, at the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE).
The working group heard from the special education subcommittee. Their recommendations revolved around three ideas that would reduce the funding pressure of the special education cross subsidy:
- Improve the formula
- Tuition billing
- How to manage costs
The South St. Paul Public Schools teams provided a case study to the group on how property tax equalization funding works in the state and more specifically in their school district.
Dave Webb, superintendent of the South St. Paul Schools described how the current use of the property tax system for funding school districts is not equitable. His presentation showed how it is inconsistent and outdated and harms many school districts families and students across the state. The state property tax system penalizes communities for having lower property wealth. Taxpayers with less property wealth in their community will pay 2 to 3 times more to raise the same amount of funding for their schools as a tax payer from a community that has more property wealth.
Minnesota students and families who live in low property wealth communities are impacted by the lack of opportunities in critical support services available in their school districts. Kids are being harmed across our state because our lower property wealth communities often have fewer teachers, fewer opportunities and less access to critical support services due to unfair property tax funding. Minnesota currently measures all kids on the same academic scale, yet funding for school districts across the state isn’t equitable. When the unfair equalization is fixed, either there will be no referenda, or it will be fully equalized so communities in school districts with lower levels of property wealth are not highly harmed by having fewer teachers and fewer opportunities and less access to critical support services for their children.
In the past some legislation has slightly improved equalization. However, the funding amount directed towards equalization is not sufficient enough to solve the problem.
The final presentation, Commissioner Ricker introduced the work group’s issue #5, Pupil Support Staff to Student Ratios. She introduced two healthcare professionals who have established and worked in school-based health clinics across Minnesota. The purpose of school based health clinics is to bridge the gap between health and education which will achieve health equity as well of education.
The next meeting will be March 26 from 4 -7:00 p.m. at the Department of Education. The agenda will include future case studies and work on emerging proposals. The work group is looking to have their proposal finalized by the end of August and the Commissioner asked for members to host listening sessions around the state as they are beginning to generate interest and support.