At $13,600 in annual per student spending, Minnesota is considered a high-spending state relative to K-12 education spending across the country. Education spending amounts to 40 percent of our state budget, making it the biggest expenditure of the state by over $4 billion.
Last session, Minnesota legislative leaders passed the largest increase in the K-12 education formula in 15 years. Yet, according to education spending advocates and teachers’ unions, Minnesota schools still do not have enough money.
The reason, they claim, is that the state and federal governments don’t pay district schools enough to cover the cost of mandated learning services, such as special education services and English-language-learner services. Thus, a gap is created that districts have to make up, which leaves less money for other educational services for all students.
Based on numbers, gaps do exist between what the districts receive and what they spend. But the reason always seems to be a funding issue, and the spending isn’t often, if ever, questioned. And the solution is always more money.
The House DFL’s education plan would “fully fund English-language-learning services by 2026” and eliminate the “cross-subsidy,” reports the Sahan Journal. Then, “the amount the state pays will match what districts spend.”
More accountability first
But we know from past audits that more disclosure and greater accountability are needed when it comes to education spending. The dollars don’t always get spent wisely or get to the students they are intended to help.
Increasing education spending must be done cautiously, as we don’t have the best track record for getting the most out of our dollars. And the argument for doing so must be made in honest terms, with an account for not only where the current dollars are going, but also how they are being spent within the different categories districts receive money for. Otherwise, Minnesota will continue being a high spending state with little to show for it, and students will continue paying the cost.