Tuesday, September 11, 2018


Yesterday, as an exercise, we compared the revenues allocated to Edina and St. Cloud respectively.   In doing so, we counted all Fund 1 revenues reported by MDE data for the two districts.  We should keep in mind that different districts have differing access to operating referendum revenue.   Edina is one of those metro districts that has extraordinarily large operating referenda.   

Generally metro districts have larger levy referenda than outstate districts.  Edina’s operating referenda is scheduled to rise to $2,000.   St. Cloud’s is in the $750 per student range.  The map above displays referenda amount by shade.  Notice that the darkest, and thus highest levy, districts are huddled around the suburban metro area. 

We are looking at district pairs to compare representative districts to St. Cloud to use the comparisons as illustrations, and to think about how the state should assure that each district has sufficient funding to provide its students with an education that meets all state standards, as the constitution requires.

As in our last post, we begin with a comparison of Minneapolis and St. Cloud demographics.  The theory of using these demographics in the district’s funding formula is that some of these demographics are statistically correlated with students who need more instructional and other assistance to thrive.  By no means does every student in any demographic group share the educational characteristics of its entire demographic group.   We sometimes say that students can “beat the odds,” but that’s not really correct, is it. A student is not a prisoner of statistics.

You may be surprised to see how nearly St. Cloud’s demographics compares to Minneapolis.  St. Cloud has slightly higher percentages of English Language Learners, and probably a cohort that are on the average newer to country.   It has a slightly higher SPED percentage, and slightly higher Free and reduced lunch percentage.  So let’s see if we can justify the way that these demographics translate into funding. 

With state, federal and referendum Fund 01 funds combined, Minneapolis receives almost $2,000 more dollars per student.   Minneapolis spends $513 per each student ( that is per 37K students) and St. Cloud spends $308 per each student (that is per 10,084 students) on English Language Learners.     Each district has a significant English Language learner funding deficit.   In addition, Minneapolis has a couple hundred dollars per each of its students greater special education deficit that St. Cloud. 

You can make arguments as to why this comparison is fair, or unfair.   Minneapolis has access to a larger market and multiple colleges and Universities.  But its a common assumption that anything in Minneapolis costs a whole lot more than outstate.  In Minnesota, we focus a whole lot on how funds get distributed, but focus not at all on how much it costs in the first place to actually deliver an education that meets state standards.  Please don't respond by telling me that we can't solve education by "throwing money at it."  Everybody knows that.  Propagating that platitude adds nothing to the conversation and completely evades my point:  we have no idea what it should cost.