Henton: School funding to get serious look

Supt. Henton
Supt. Henton

Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius’s task force on school funding is making a proposal to the Governor to be included in the 2013 budget. It attempts to address the funding inequities school districts like ours have been dealing with for the last decade.

There are a couple of issues that have hurt North Branch Area Public Schools: the increasing reliance on local levies to fund schools, which has skyrocketed over the last ten years, and the failure of state funding to keep pace with inflation.

What do I mean by the latter? Since 2003, the last time per-pupil general aid was adjusted for inflation; per-pupil aid has increased by 13.5 percent. However, in that same period, inflation has increased 26.4 percent. So, while it is technically true that funding for schools has “increased” in the last ten years, it is also true that schools are making do with less because costs have well outpaced increases.

For all of us served by North Branch Area Public Schools, this is the moment we have been waiting for. It is the most meaningful proposal yet to address not only the state’s failure to keep pace with inflation, but the equity gaps created by our current “have vs. have not” system that is leaving school districts like ours vulnerable.

For sure there is a price tag for these much-needed reforms. According to media sources, property taxes in our district could increase about 12 percent. But the increase to our state aid would be a whopping $1,012 per pupil.

To put that in perspective, our last levy asked for $350 per pupil to raise $1.5 million annually, and the tax burden on $200,000 of property value would have been $147.06 per year.

I am sure all of us can find things about the proposal that we like, and that we don’t like. It deserves careful consideration though, and I urge you to familiarize yourself with the details and consider letting your legislator know you support this proposal for the future of education at North Branch Area Public Schools.

— Deb Henton is superintendent of North Branch Area School Dist. 138

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