Earlier this month I posted a DFL press conference introducing House File 2 which will drastically change the way public education in Minnesota is financed. In order to get a clearer picture of this legislation, I sent off some questions to one of the bills co-authors, Representative Larry Haws. I have taken the liberty of mixing his answers with some of my own commentary:

The key benefit of this new system will be a simplification of public school funding coupled with increases in state aid and reductions in property taxes. The current system creates a situation in which those areas that can continually raise the property tax revenue to adequately fund schools are doing so while those economically impoverished areas are left with substandard services, not because they don't care about education but because their populations simply cannot handle property tax load. It is creating a system of haves and have nots in public education.

One of the key components that I like and that Haws explained in his response email is the phase in portion of the legislation. Rather than a simple switch over and influx of money into the system, the new Minnesota Miracle is open ended and its phase in period will be determined as it travels through committee and floor analysis.

Sec. 41. PHASE-IN.
Subdivision 1. Baseline revenue. A school district's baseline revenue equals the
revenue amounts for the aid appropriations calculated under Minnesota Statutes, section
126C.20, calculated using the current year's data and the revenue formulas in place in
Minnesota Statutes 2008.
Subd. 2. New revenue. A school district's new revenue equals the revenue amounts
for the aid appropriations calculated under Minnesota Statutes, section 126C.20, calculated
using the current year's data and the revenue formulas in place under this act.
Subd. 3. Phase-in schedule. A school district's revenue amounts for the revenue
formulas listed in subdivisions 1 and 2 equals the district's baseline revenue plus the
percent of the difference specified in subdivision 4 multiplied by the number of years
of the phase-in specified in subdivision 5.
Subd. 4. Percentage. The phase-in percentage equals ... percent.
Subd. 5. Years of phase-in. The new revenue under this section is phased-in over
.. years.
EFFECTIVE DATE.This section is effective July 1, 2009.

Directly from the email:

Here are a few specifics and benefits of the bill:

  • Increases formula allowance to $7500, indexed to implicit price deflator.
  • Uses a scalable blueprint that can be phased in over several years.
  • Equalizes the pupil weighting system for students in kindergarten through high school to 1.0.
  • Enhances compensatory aid and funding for English language learners.
  • Fully funds voluntary all-day kindergarten
  • Fully funds state special education costs by removing existing caps.
  • Includes a levy referendum offset of $500 per pupil in districts with levies; provides $500 per pupil to districts without a levy in place.
  • Accounts for declining enrollment in every geographic region of the state.
  • Includes innovation and accountability measures including a requirement that a district use 5 % of its basic revenue for innovative, research-based programs to improve academic performance.
  • Creates a new school bond agricultural credit equal to 66 percent of the property tax on agricultural properties attributable to school bond levies. This will help promote equitable funding to rural districts, as it will help rural districts more easily pass referenda--if school districts and voters agree that they are needed.

Unfortunately, in this economic climate I am not sure how much enthusiasm there will be to this kind of wholesale overhaul of the current system. The bill appears to be sound and take into account just this kind of issue with its phase in but only time will tell if it can gain momentum in the state legislature. My hope is that my representative, Larry Haws, will help make this bill happen.