Schwab looking for solutions to K-12 funding

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 8, 2001

After 10 years as an Albert Lea school board member, and one legislative session under her belt, Sen.

Sunday, July 08, 2001

After 10 years as an Albert Lea school board member, and one legislative session under her belt, Sen. Grace Schwab knows plenty about education from both a local and statewide perspective.

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She’s about to learn a lot more.

Schwab was recently named one of eight legislators to spend the next several months studying the complexity and inequities of K-12 education in Minnesota. As part of a task force created by a special session measure, she will meet weekly with other task-force members during the summer and fall. The groups goal is to have proposals ready for the next session in that begins in January.

&uot;I consider it a huge honor and a great opportunity to learn even more about our education system,&uot; Schwab said.

Though K-12 education is the legislature’s largest budget item at $8.7 billion, Schwab said everyone from educators and administrators to parents and other voters are frustrated at the complexity of the system.

&uot;It’s a complicated system with complicated formulas, and the legislature tinkers with it a little every year. This task force is supposed to learn how we can do an overhaul,&uot; she said. &uot;This is a concession that it has become too complicated.&uot;

Schwab will visit with experts, hear testimony from school board members and superintendents, talk with officials from the Department of Children, Families and Learning and visit schools across the state.

&uot;I’m happy to spend my time working on education issues, especially when it comes to fairness,&uot; she said. &uot;I think people want to know what numbers they’re supposed to believe and how the state arrives at them. Who is accountable, and how does funding relate to achievement? We have a lot of questions to answer.&uot;

According to the provision that creates the task force, it must address the following issues:

n Are school funding statutes and rules easily understood by the public?

n How can the funding system be simplified?

n How can funding disparities between students be resolved?

n How do the decisions of voters affect district equity?

n How can the state more equitably fund education, including alternative learning centers, contracted alternatives and charter schools?

n How do regional variations in cost and market-based wages affect school district costs?

n How can compensatory revenue most effectively aid students in area with high concentrations of poverty?

n How can integration revenue be equitably distributed?

n How can the legislature improve the timeliness and accuracy of school funding?

After the task force releases its findings, Schwab hopes to see some changes to the system that will make it more easily understood, more fair and more efficient than the current process.

&uot;I think we have a very difficult mission – certainly very time-consuming – but maybe this signals a willingness for the legislature to make some reforms,&uot; Schwab said.

Schwab is also a newly-appointed member to the Chicano/Latino Affairs Council, which begins meeting this summer as well.

&uot;The session might be over, but legislators have plenty to work on,&uot; Schwab said.