Across Minnesota today, the school day began with excitement and optimism. Students and teachers were in good spirits as they set their sights on another school year. I also settled into my classroom, this, my 25th year of teaching, business as usual. However, my perspective has changed. While I look at my own classrooms and the climate around me, I am aware of a much bigger challenge we face as a State. The next legislative session will face the task of producing an education funding bill for the next two years during a time of economic uncertainty. And many school districts will look to the legislature to shore up some real funding issues that have surfaced over the past 5-8 years.
- Reliability Schools want a funding formula that is predictable. Districts have to prepare budgets years in advance. Declining enrollment, voter approved levies (or not), and unfunded mandates put serious strain on a district’s resources
- Stability While a district’s revenue source should be reliable, it should also be stable over time. Long range planning is essential for a district to meet its educational goals and its capital needs.
- Equity There has been a lot of discussion around the state about the funding inequity between metro and out-state schools. This is one part of the funding formula that needs serious scrutiny. We cannot have an education culture of haves and have-nots. Our students and staff need every resource available and an equal opportunity to tap into those resources.
In a few weeks I will be attending an E-12 Finance Committee retreat to take a serious look at the funding formula for our schools. While the Legislature will not officially tackle this issue until January, we are doing the legwork now to make sure we hit the ground running in 2009.
In the meantime I look forward to teaching Civics to a new batch of eager 9th grade students. And this semester, I may spend an extra few days on state and local government. I seem to have some new insight on the topic, even after 24 years.