Friday Update Jan. 25, 2019
By Mark Messman, Superintendent EV-W Schools
In Eden Valley-Watkins, we educate every child for the future. But we cannot do it alone, and must rely on the state funding formula to support our programming. We thank our legislators and advocates for the increases in education funding in the previous biennium, now is the time to fix education funding going into the future. School districts like EVW need Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota Legislature to fulfill the state’s 2003 promise to adequately fund public schools with part of the $1.54 billion state surplus.
Funding education is a constitutional duty of the Governor and the Legislature. State funding has not kept up with inflation since 2003. According to the Minnesota Department of Education, that stacks up to nearly $632 per pupil in the Eden Valley-Watkins School District. This underfunding has led our board and administration to critique purchasing, cut expenditures, and limit student programming and opportunities. It also prevents schools from effectively planning and executing our community’s vision for education and strategic goals.
This $632 gap per pupil is especially troublesome for Greater Minnesota school districts like Eden Valley-Watkins that are more dependent on the basic formula than metro area districts that have greater access to local operating referendum revenue due to higher household incomes and property wealth. Local voters across the state have had to fill the gap for basic education services. In our EVW community, residents continue to demonstrate support for our schools by passing the 2018 building referendum and renewing our operating referendum back in 2015. This local support is certainly appreciated, yet the state needs to address the instability of funding created by inflation, cross-subsidy, and mandated programming. Meeting the needs of our students requires a predictable and stable funding formula that will address the negative financial impact that continues to grow. A predictable funding formula would allow us to effectively plan our programming and reduce deficit spending.
A child’s potential for success should not depend on living in a particular zip code. Using the state’s General Fund is the most equitable, predictable, and stable way to have our schools address the needs of students. Join me in calling Governor Walz and the Legislature this session to step forward for students and fulfill the state’s constitutional requirement to adequately fund education. Our students and the Eden Valley-Watkins communities depend on it.