We see the headlines every year: Our schools and educators are struggling to provide more and more with less and less.
Our state’s share of school funding simply hasn’t kept pace with inflation. Over the last two decades, per-pupil aid, in real dollars, has slipped by as much as $2,000. Even in 2016, when lawmakers made what they called a historic investment, they brought per-pupil funding only halfway back to its 2003 level.
Local aid isn’t enough
Meanwhile, local aid has tried to make up the difference. But the tax base between school districts varies wildly. That not only forces some schools to cut critical student programs and services each year, but also creates a system of haves and have nots.
Mandated services without the funding
Complicating matters further is that lawmakers, at the federal and state level, mandate new programs and services without the funds to cover them. For instance, the state’s 2011 Teacher Development and Evaluation law, touted as a way to improve education outcomes, remains unfunded. And the federal government made a commitment to pay 40% of the average per student cost for every special education student, but has never delivered more than 20%. This shortfall creates a burden on local communities and denies full opportunity to all students – with and without disabilities.
What does this mean?
Minnesota’s 743 to 1 student to counselor ratio is one of the nation’s highest.
That makes it difficult, if not impossible, for students to get help. And it comes at a time when issues outside of the classroom – like homelessness, domestic violence, and even teenage suicide – are on the rise.
Our ESPs – Education Support Professionals – work with our most challenged students, yet, in many cases, they earn less than entry level food service workers. Just as troubling, some have little or no say in the important – and sometimes dangerous – work they do.
The federal government promised to pay for 40% of special education costs but never has delivered more than 20%.
Class sizes grow
This gives our students little or no chance to receive that critical one-on-one time with an educator.
Programs that teach important life skills, like self-expression, home repair, and more, are on the chopping block.
The lifeblood of a well-rounded education disappears. And, even in some schools that continue to offer activities, after-school buses often get cut. That doesn’t just affect athletes without an alternative transportation option, but also students who want to stay after school for academic help.
Educators are quitting and positions are hard to fill
Educators are asked to do more and more with less and less resulting in them leaving the profession in droves. Within the first five years, one in three new teachers, a large number of them frustrated by a lack of resources, are no longer in the classroom.
Our schools’ recruitment efforts, faced with educators making 11% less than similarly-educated peers, find it hard to fill positions. It’s particularly difficult to attract educators of color. Only 4% of Minnesota’s teachers are of color.
Meanwhile, 34% of our students are of color. Our racial achievement gap continues to grow. In fact, when it comes to graduation rates for students of color, it’s the nation’s lowest.
Higher education costs soar
This makes it more and more difficult for our students to pursue that difference-making career. Their average debt load is now the nation’s fifth largest.
Believe in we, Minnesota
Join together to elect pro-public education lawmakers so we can protect our schools.
Do what our parents did for us: give students the education they need to build an even brighter future.