STMA targets legislative priorities
The St. Michael-Albertville School Board approved six legislative priorities in its 2013 legislative platform.
The priorities are adequate and equitable funding, fairness for taxpayers by equalizing property tax effort, reduction in the unfunded gap for special education, all day kindergarten, and safe and secure learning environment.
The district released the following information summarizing its legislative platform:
• Increase the general education basic formula amount to a level that truly covers the costs of educating a student in Minnesota.
The basic formula amount dedicated to each student in Minnesota has lagged behind inflation for 20 years. The current level of $5,224 per pupil unit would need to increase by over $2,000 per pupil to provide the same buying power it had in 1991-92. Adequate funding of the basic formula is crucial to districts like STMA because it generates 87% of the non-referendum general education revenue. STMA supports the proposed 1% increase in the basic education formula.
•Reduce the disparity in general revenue per pupil in Minnesota between the highest and lowest revenue districts.
The disparity in general education revenue per pupil in Minnesota ranges from $6,211 to $13,465. STMA receives $6,721 per pupil, $2,000 below the state average of $8,804 per pupil. It ranks tenth from last place. The bottom line is educational opportunities for students in school districts with more revenue per pupil are greater than those in STMA. STMA and others like it have larger class sizes, fewer music and arts programs, outdated technology, less help for struggling learners, and fewer AP and rigorous classes. STMA supports legislation that modifies the equity funding formula or reduces the disparity in general revenue per pupil in Minnesota school districts.
• Increase the equalizing factors for referendum, debt service and other education-related levies.
To make certain that taxpayers are treated fairly, the state must increase the equalization factors for these levies. Taxpayers in low property wealth school districts pay two to three times more than taxpayers in high property wealth school districts to support the same level of funding for their schools. The annual cost to a taxpayer for a $1,633 per pupil school levy per $100,000 assessed value in Hopkins is $153 compared to $497 in STMA. Another way to recognize the inequity is the fact that the same property tax levy generates two to three times more money in high property wealth districts than low wealth districts like STMA. A student’s zip code must not determine educational opportunity. STMA supports SF 177, SF 569 and HF 579.
• Increase funding for special education programs.
STMA subsidizes excess special education costs for federal and state mandated special education programs with $500 per pupil ($2.8 million annually) from general education revenue. Without adequate funding, the district has no choice but to underfund or eliminate general education program and/or seek additional revenue through increases in the voter-approved levy. STMA supports legislation to increase special education funding.
• Fully fund voluntary all-day, every day kindergarten so that every student has the opportunity to participate and achieve at high levels.
The current half-day state funded program with the option for parents to pay for an all-day option creates an opportunity gap for students, often for those who come to school without school readiness skills or need extra time to master reading and math. All day kindergarten provides all students access to a high quality education. STMA supports HF 105, SF 162 and SF 2
• Support safe and secure schools.
School funding for safety and security does not meet the increasing demands for a safe learning environment. The largest 25 districts have access to unlimited deferred maintenance funding under the alternative facilities program while districts such as STMA are limited to a maximum of $60 per pupil. The Health and Safety Program does not allow funding for school security projects and involves excessive paperwork. Safe Schools does not adequately fund safety, security and student mental health needs. STMA supports legislation that allows school boards greater flexibility to fund safety and security needs, eliminates unnecessary paperwork, and provides funding similar to levels allowed for the 25 largest school districts.