School funding reform proposals positive step for education

“Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.” ~John F. Kennedy

As President Kennedy stated years ago, education is one of the most important investments we can make to strengthen our state and nation. As we face a budget deficit this session, we cannot lose sight of the larger economic picture in Minnesota. We need to invest in our students today, to ensure that our state and economy are strong tomorrow.

Earlier this session, Governor Mark Dayton asked Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius to create an Education Finance Working Group with the charge to develop recommendations for school finance reform.

The Working Group is made up of school and civic leaders, citizens and parents, and sitting legislative leadership. They have worked throughout the session to create a legislative proposal that will reform how we fund our schools and to ensure that our students receive the quality education they need to be prepared for life beyond high school. Established as part of Governor Dayton’s plan to reform school funding, the goals of the proposals crafted by the Working Group are to improve the adequacy, equity, and stability of pre K-12 education funding, simplify education funding, preserve local control, close the achievement gap, promote high achievement for all students, and direct resources closest to students, teachers and the classroom.

To achieve these goals, the working group is proposing to:

• Make E-12 education funding more understandable by eliminating unnecessary formulas and simplifying how students are counted for funding purposes;
• Reform special education funding by designing a student-driven formula and sharing of excess special education costs between school districts/charters and non-resident students;
• Invest in early learning, with targeted funds to all-day kindergarten for students living in poverty;
• Change current funding provisions to provide a more adequate, uniform and stable funding base for all districts and charter schools, and to lessen reliance on local referenda; and
• Recognize regional cost differences for metro area districts.

I look forward to working with the governor and his working group to continue to improve our education system and our state’s future. Expect to see many of these issues discussed next session.

As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions about any issue. Please visit my Senate website at senate.mn/senatorwiger. I also encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your home or apartment. Also, please tune in to my local cable TV show, “Your Capitol: What’s Up?,” which appears on public access channels 15 and 16.

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Senator Chuck Wiger
Chuck Wiger represents District 43, which includes portions of Ramsey and Washington counties in the northeastern Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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