Education funding reform

Legislators announced a new plan to change educational funding methods.

While the news of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s line-item vetoes overshadowed all other activity at the Capitol this week, some DFL legislators unveiled a new plan to revamp the way schools are funded in our state. While the principles behind the idea are not new, it represents a smart step toward improving the state’s educational systems.

Minnesota’s educational funding was radically reformed in the early 1970s. Previously, the public schools in Minnesota had been primarily funded through local property taxes, which lead to obvious disparities in educational quality between communities. The “Minnesota Miracle,” as it was called, shifted the burden of paying for education to the state level.

Over the years, these changes have been eroded, but now some legislators are saying it’s time to go back to a system where the state covers most costs; it’s time for a new “Minnesota Miracle,” they say. Specifically, the plan calls for an increase in per-pupil funding. Currently, districts receive about $5,000 per student, but these lawmakers seek to raise that amount to $7,500.

The Constitution of Minnesota guarantees its citizens a right to an education, and this is not to be taken lightly. The benefits of having an educated populace are too numerous to list, and it is certainly a good investment of taxpayer dollars. Educational funding must always be a priority.

We also need to focus on making educational quality equitable across the state. Using property taxes as a primary funding mechanism has been tried in the past, and it can’t produce the best possible state-wide education system. We need the state government to take the lead on this vital issue, and we are optimistic that the current proposal would bring an improvement to the state’s educational system.