Citizens talking with a legislator

2019 Legislative Priorities documentROSEMOUNT, Minn. – Increased state funding for education is the top priority for District 196 in the 2019 session of the Minnesota Legislature that begins Jan. 8. The School Board unanimously approved the district’s 2019 legislative priorities at its Dec. 10 meeting.

The priorities were developed by citizen and staff members of the district’s Legislative Advisory Council (LAC), with input from members of the Budget Advisory Council (BAC). Members of the LAC and School Board will advocate for the district’s priorities in meetings with legislators and by sharing information with residents and encouraging them to contact their senators and representatives to ask for significant funding increases for E-12 education in the state’s next two-year budget, which will be approved this session.

The state has majority responsibility to adequately fund public schools, but state lawmakers have failed to fulfill this Constitutional duty, putting at risk Minnesota’s future prosperity and ability to compete in the global economy, according to the district’s priorities document. Increases for basic education averaged less than 1 percent per year in the first half of this decade and the unfunded portion of special education costs continues to grow. “As a result, school districts across the state are in a revolving cycle of cutting staff and programs, then asking voters to increase local taxes to prevent further cuts. With the completion of each cycle, the level of service goes down while the needs of students continue to increase … .”

On behalf of the 29,000 students and 155,000 residents of District 196, the School Board and LAC members believe the Legislature should establish stable funding solutions for Minnesota schools by taking the actions listed below during the 2019 budget-setting session.

Increase basic education funding by 4 percent per year

  • The general education formula allowance is the single biggest source of revenue Minnesota school districts receive. Since 2003, the difference between the actual and inflation-adjusted general education formula allowance has grown to $618 per pupil. If the formula had kept pace with inflation, District 196 would be receiving an additional $19 million in state aid this year.

Increase special education funding to reduce unfunded costs

  • The state and federal governments mandate special education services but fund just 59 percent of what it actually cost District 196 to deliver those services last year. The other 41 percent in unfunded special education costs, known as the “cross-subsidy,” were paid for out of the district’s general fund. In fiscal year 2018, the special education cross-subsidy was $700 million statewide and $29 million in District 196 alone.

Treat homeowners fairly by increasing equalization aid

  • State equalization aid helps balance the impact of school taxes for homeowners in school districts that have less commercial/industrial property wealth, like District 196, with those that have greater property wealth. However, factors used to calculate equalization aid have not kept pace with the growth in property values over time and no longer provide the intended level of equalization or taxpayer fairness. With increasing reliance on local property taxes to adequately fund schools, state lawmakers should increase the equalizing factors for referendum, debt service and lease levies, and index these factors to keep pace with inflation.

For more information about the district’s legislative priorities and advocacy efforts, visit the Legislative Advisory Council page on the District 196 website.

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