January– The Minnesota Department of Education School Finance Working Group held a meeting on January 16. The subcommittee working on special education shared several recommendations they are considering including tuition billing options, changes in the pupil based component of the special education formula and initiatives related to early intervention. Regarding this funding distribution, Amy Nelson, who is the vice president of MN PTA and a member of the Working Group, stated: “I think it is important to note that Minnesota has one of the most complicated educational funding formulas in the nation and that I also find it interesting that there are so many sources of funding and mandates surrounding funding – but the mandates don’t have to be funded”. The subcommittee also reported that they have sent a statewide survey to special education directors and business managers. The meeting also included a discussion of the challenges in addressing the achievement gap in Minnesota, particularly in the areas of special education and racial disparities.
February– The Minnesota Department of Education School Finance Working Group held a meeting on February 20. The South St. Paul Schools team provided a case study to the group on how property tax equalization funding works in the state and district. Superintendent Dave Webb helped describe how the current use of of the property tax system for funding schools is not equitable by the lack of opportunities in certain school districts compared to others. This is concerning to many people, including Amy Nelson, the vice president of MN PTA and member of the Working Group, who commented: ” I am concerned about the lack of information, and want for information, that the public has about how our children’s education is being funded. It is so important to recognize that the distribution of funds is a very complex matter and what buys $10 of education in one district costs double that in a neighboring district”. The meeting also included a presentation by Commissioner Mary Catherine Ricker who introduced work group issue #5 , Pupil Support Staff to Student Ratios. The next meeting will be March 26 from 4 -7:00 p.m. at the Department of Education. The work group is looking to have their proposal finalized by the end of August.