Our first report, “Losing Ground”, has a simple but stark finding: over the last twenty years, per pupil state aid received by Minnesota school districts declined by 20 percent, after adjusting for inflation. As state aid has fallen off, school districts have asked their constituents for increased property tax support. Statewide, per pupil property tax support has increased by 140 percent since 2003, but even that increase hasn’t been enough to fill the hole left by decreased state support. As a result, per pupil total revenue has fallen by 6 percent over that same time period, after adjusting for inflation. And estimates from the Minnesota Department of Education show that these declines will accelerate dramatically through 2025, unless the State Government acts. Our report analyzes these trends statewide and individually for every single school district in Minnesota.
We’re asking schools and teachers to do more and more every year and we’re giving them less to work with. We ask teachers to be mental health providers and social workers all while teaching larger class sizes with fewer support staff. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked teachers to learn new technology and immediately adapt these roles to distance learning. Unsurprisingly, teachers are leaving their jobs in droves and school districts are struggling to hire replacements.
With post-pandemic inflation rates taking an increasingly large bite out of school budgets, Minnesota leaders learned that they were presiding over the largest budget surplus in our state’s history. Rather than acting to reverse the sharp cuts in real per pupil state aid, they left town and kept education funding untouched. This report shows what will happen statewide and in every individual school district if state leaders continue to ignore this crisis. Our schools need help, now.