Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Funding Imbalance in MN Schools

For what it is worth, I made a map this morning showing where Minnesota school districts are whose total revenue from property taxes is more than 28% or less than 3%. This is what it looks like:

View MN School District Funding Percentages (highs and lows) in a larger map
(you may need to zoom out to see the whole state)

As you can see, all of the greater-than 28% districts are in the Twin Cities and they represent only a stripe that runs from the SW to the NE and certainly does not represent the majority of the communities in the Twin Cities. Not surprising, those districts at the top of this list are also the ones with the highest property values. All of the districts with less-than 3% are in northern rural communities. Comparing this map with a graph published last week on the MN2020 blog reveals something very troubling about school funding in Minnesota:

Of interesting note, what are not included in my map are charter schools. Charter schools are not allowed to levy local tax dollars and what money is levied by districts stay with the student's home district. Most of the state's charter schools are also not backed by large corporate interests, though a few do receive a large amount of funding from those sources. This raises a couple questions for me.
  1. If a school relies on corporate donation to maintain its services, whose needs does it serve: the public's needs or the corporate needs?
  2. If the push in the "edreform" movement is toward more charter schools, this really means we choose between truly public charters or corporate charters. Isn't the reason for all this "Edreform" really just a way to spend fewer tax dollars on public education?
For the record, I support charter schools. I like many of them and I think many are doing very good things for kids. Some of my favorite public schools are charter schools, I even work for one. But, the charters I support are ones which serve community, not corporate interests. If our politicians are serious about charter schools being the answer to our woes in public education then they need to start funding them with public money. And, if they are serious about improving the quality of all our schools in the state they need to do something about what this graph and this map represent.

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