School Trust Land Reform
Abraham Lincoln once called education, “the most important subject which we as a people may be engaged in.” This statement is just as true today as it was the day he said it. The future of our nation depends on the quality of education we provide for every student. To do this, we need to give our schools the funding they need to function at a high level.
One very important source of funding for our schools is provided by Minnesota’s school trust lands, which is included in the Minnesota state constitution. Since 1962, 2.5 million acres of school trust lands, and an additional one million acres of school trust mineral rights have been managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Our schools benefit from land and timber sales, leases, and mining royalties.
The state legislature is currently considering new ways to manage this land. The lands are intended to create profits for our schools and we believe we can increase the amount of funding they produce.
With an eye on maximizing funding for our schools, I recently authored legislation that will create a legislative-citizen commission. The 14-member commission will include:
• Eight public members (two appointed by the Senate, two appointed by the House of Representatives and four appointed by the governor);
• Three members of the Senate, including one member from the minority party; and
• Three members of the House of Representatives, including one member from the minority party.
The legislation also creates a director of trust lands and mineral assets. The director will work with the legislative-citizen commission on decisions surrounding this very important land. The proposed structure is similar to the way the state of Utah runs their school trust lands. Utah changed their decision making structure in 1991 and that decision has meant a substantial increase in the amount of funding going to their schools.
I hope to see this, or similar legislation, move forward this session. We need to continually look at ways to increase funding to our schools and this bill will encourage discussion on this very important issue. I moved similar legislation three years ago and I am pleased to see the growing bipartisan support surrounding the bill.
As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions as needed. 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 house 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.