The Minnesota Legislature convened Jan. 3 for their 2017 legislative session, which will include the passage of a K-12 finance omnibus bill for the next biennium. 17 local school districts and their counterparts in city government took an evening a few weeks prior to talk about education funding equity with local members of Minnesota’s House and Senate, and representatives seemed to have heard them loud and clear.
Both the House and Senate are putting together bills aimed at tackling funding equity disparities among the state’s school districts, and this Wednesday St. Michael-Albertville Superintendent Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault will head to St. Paul to testify on behalf of a proposed senate bill that seeks to help close the gap between the 20 percent of highest funded school districts and the 20 percent lowest funded.
STMA’s per-pupil funding level currently ranks at number 327 out of 331 school districts in Minnesota. The bills targets school districts that receive low general education funding per-pupil and have low property wealth per pupil.
“This bill could really benefit STMA,” Foucault said.
The house has a companion version of the senate’s bill, HF181, which got a first reading on Jan. 12. District 30B state representative Eric Lucero authored the bill, along with representatives from two other districts, and it asks for an additional $20 million in education funding for these lowest funded districts.
“STMA is one of multiple school districts …. that are continuously, funding year after funding year, at the bottom of the school districts that receive per-pupil funding once the categorical funding is applied,” Lucero said.
Lucero said that the proposed bill does not target individual school districts, so the school districts that are at the bottom will be continuously be changing over time as tax capacities change.
While the Senate’s bill will hold E-12 committee hearings this Wednesday and again on March 8 on the issue, the House’s equity in education bill will head to the finance committee to get a hearing later this month or early March, along with dozens of other bills. Legislators will then decide which bills to include in the K-12 finance omnibus bill. Lucero said they won’t know whether it will make it into the omnibus bill until April.
In addition to both houses of the Minnesota legislature looking to curb funding inequities, Lucero said education funding equity is an issue that has bi-partisan support at the state capital.
“It is absolutely a bi-partisan issue and will receive bi-partisan support,” Lucero said, “the school districts that are continuously at the bottom are not just republican school districts or democrat school districts-they are everyone’s school districts.”
I have great confidence that we’re going to continue to raise awareness and gain traction in this area,” he added.