Education already takes up 40% of state budget, adding billions more is risky

Minnesota spends a lot on education. According to the Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB), our state government is poised to spend nearly $52 billion in the 2022-2023 biennium. This is what the legislature agreed on in the last session.

Out of that $52 billion, $20 billion, or 40 percent will go to E-12 education, which is by far the biggest expenditure of the state. In fact, spending on E-12 is over $4 billion higher than the next highest spending category — Health and Human Services.

This high level of spending on education did not start this biennium, nor will it be the end. In fact, in the 2020-2021 biennium, E-12 spending made up 41 percent of general fund expenses and was $5 billion higher than spending on Health and Human Services.

And in the next spending cycle — 2024-2025 biennium — spending on E-12 education is estimated to make up 39 percent of the budget. Regardless, it will still be nearly $3 billion more than the next spending category — Health and Human Services.

More billions on education are not necessary and would put pressure on the budget

The Minnesota House Democratic party has proposed using $3.27 billion of the surplus to increase spending on education. Of that $3.27 billion, $1.15 billion will add on to the current biennium and the other $2.12 billion will add on to spending estimated for the 2024-2025 budget.

If these proposals pass, E-12 education spending will take a bigger chunk of our general funds, meaning less room for other public services. Moreover, this will also mean higher spending obligations for the future which will put Minnesotans on the hook for even higher taxes.

But given our current level of spending on E-12, it is not clear that these hikes are necessary, especially given that previous research by American Experiment has found no evidence showing that higher spending leads to better student outcomes.

Minnesota does not lag behind other states when it comes to spending on education. In fact, after accounting for the number of students, E-12 spending per pupil for Minnesota is on par with most states, according to US Census Bureau Data.

To say the least, issues that are plaguing the public education system in Minnesota have very little, if anything to do with funding. E-12 education is our biggest expense. Giving it more money will mean less room for other things, not to say higher taxes.