The following was published as letter to the editor in the October 17th Northeaster issue. Reposted here with permission.
Strong public schools are essential to a thriving and healthy city. We know that our public schools are the foundation of our Northeast community. To support our schools, I am asking you to vote yes twice on the ballot questions for Minneapolis kids.
While Minnesota was once set up with the ideal that all children deserve equal access to public educational opportunities, and that we would not allow the property tax base to determine the quality of education, state and federal governments are no longer meeting their responsibilities, especially with funding for Special Education and English Learner services. General education funding from the state has not kept up with inflation, even with recent investments.
The general education formula is $618 per pupil below the inflation adjusted 2003 level; if it had stayed at that level, it would have meant about $22 million more in state aid for Minneapolis Public Schools last school year. MPS receives about $60 million a year less than the special education and English learner costs. Additionally, due to outdated billing policies based on a students’ “home districts,” MPS pays $15 million a year to other district and charter schools for special education costs they incur. This lack of funding, combined with the expectation that school districts turn to property owners for the gap in funding, leaves little choice for public schools except to turn to referendums. Minneapolis is not alone—nearly every district in the state faces these challenges and referendum questions are popping up on ballots everywhere.
The referendum is a necessary step to build the MPS our students need and deserve. We’re proud that public schools accept all students, including all religions, children of color, children with special needs or learning disabilities, kids with little formal schooling, and kids with limited English proficiency. With your support, MPS looks forward to investing in priority areas like literacy, social emotional learning, and student support services to improve student achievement and well-being.
Every student deserves high quality education, and public school across the state are implementing what’s right, but that comes at a high cost. Help us provide predictable equitable, sustainable programming and services by voting yes twice on November 6, and supporting candidates across the ballot committed to public schools. For more information, go to yesformplskids.org.