Over the years, there has been a growing disparity between metro and rural schools. Last year, the legislature made changes to education funding throughout the state. A provision that passed in the 2013 Tax Bill increased state aid for districts that have small voter-approved levies with low property wealth. The increase in equalization aid is a benefit to small rural school districts. Referendum equalization offsets the higher tax rates required to raise the same amounts of levy in low-property wealth districts.
This year we expanded another educational funding program now called Local Optional Revenue. This program removes geographic parameters and population minimums for school districts and grants authority to all districts to raise $424 per student. Districts will need to assess their unique needs and involve board members and the broader community in deciding whether to choose to take the new revenue.
We have attempted to level the playing field, grant more flexibility to smaller, rural schools, and equalize school funding in ways that will help all Minnesotans. Districts throughout Minnesota now have the same options available to them. These changes work in collaboration with other broad education reforms all aimed at closing the gap that’s been widening between metro and rural school districts, while simultaneously strengthening our educational system.
Superintendents of schools across our district have responded positively to these changes and thanked the Senate for providing more money for school districts. The ability to plan ahead and rely on a stable funding stream is something districts statewide are grateful for.