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Simplified funding formula is positive for Minnesota schools

Published 9:20am Friday, May 30, 2014

Guest Column by Paul Marquart

A few recent letters in this paper have touched on the topic of education funding and I thought it might be helpful to offer a simple explanation of the changes that were put in place for the 2013 Budget.

State Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth
State Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth

As the letters mentioned, last year’s budget fully funded All Day Kindergarten for the first time in Minnesota history. Those investments were made by increasing the weight given to kindergarten students in the funding formula. While making those adjustments, we also changed the weights for other grade levels to make it easier for local districts and state departments to determine funding levels.

For example, kindergarten students used to be given a weight of .612 in the funding formula, while other elementary and high school students were given a weight ranging from 1.0 to 1.3.

We simplified that formula so that elementary students in grades K-6 are all weighted at 1.0 and high school students grade 7-12 are weighted at 1.2. If we had stopped there, schools across Minnesota would have seen a roughly 7 percent decrease in state funding.

But we adjusted state aid and per pupil funding account for the formula changes. We simplified the formula and made sure that school funding was held harmless from any of those changes.

Those funding formula changes were completely separate from the new money for schools in the state budget.

Albert Lea Area Schools, for example, received more than $2.8 million in state aid this biennium. That money is on top of any funds used to simplify the funding formula statewide. To put it simply, the idea that schools would lose money after this next year is not true.

When we came to the Legislature in January of 2013, schools were still waiting to be paid back from the $2 billion school shift from the past budget. Albert Lea alone had more than $8.5 million in school funding borrowed.

After passing a balanced budget, we’ve paid back our schools in full. After years of cuts and shift, Albert Lea Schools saw a 4 percent increase in their funding this biennium.

As a teacher in Greater Minnesota, I can appreciate the passion that folks have for their local schools in this area. We want to create the world’s best workforce by making sure everyone of our students receives a high quality education.

Rep. Shannon Savick has fought hard for the schools in this area. I’m glad to have her at the Capitol working to make education a priority for Minnesota.

 

State Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, is chairman of the House Education Finance Committee.