Educators look to make funding more equitable

Time for those winter concerts already. Some years we have a bunch of snow for them, but I, for one, am okay with not seeing too much of the white stuff. I know the music department will entertain the audience (I write this Monday morning) and as always, our outstanding student musicians will be showcased. I look forward to seeing them all.

Last week two groups working at the request of the Governor and Minnesota Department of Education submitted their recommendations to the Commissioner of Education, Brenda Caselius, regarding two issues that have been concerns for a number of years. One deals with the use of high stakes graduation exams for granting of a diploma and the other revolves around making the school funding formula more equitable across the state.

This time I wish to share a bit of information about the school funding group’s work and ideas sent to the department. One idea that is kind of back to the future deals with the reinstatement of the general education levy, which is equalized across all property in the state, and for districts such as ours, would also replace the first $300 per pupil of our currently $500 per pupil operating referendum. The state average operating referendum is at $1,035 per student for current FY 13, so some districts would have more replaced and some less than ours. Also the equalizing factors would be increased and indexed to the state average tax base per student, thus keeping up with inflation.

Funding would be provided to districts for all day / every day kindergarten for low income students. We currently provide this service at no cost to our students and parents, while many districts charge a fee for this program. Nearly $200 million will be added to the special education funding for districts across the state. This would reduce the cross-subsidy for school districts to about $432 million state-wide. Cross-subsidy refers to the amount of dollars taken from regular education funds to pay for additional costs incurred in education of students receiving special education services. There are some other changes as well, and more information will be out shortly as the recommendations make their rounds through all the circles, political and otherwise.

In the next couple columns I will talk about the assessment committee’s recommendation, of which I was privileged to be a part of, and also about the ideas for the possible addition to the elementary school currently being discussed by the school board. As always, thanks for your continued support of Central Schools and our students. See you in the paper.

Brian Corlett is Superintendent of Central Public Schools. Corlett’s Cracker Barrel is a regular feature of The Norwood Young America Times.