STMA Legislative Action
When it comes to legislative advocacy, your voice matters! When advocating with legislators, it is important to have a basic knowledge of how public schools are funded in Minnesota.
School Funding 101
Article XIII of the MN Constitution clearly states "it is the duty of the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools."
State funding is very important to STMA students, staff, and stakeholders as approximately 86% of the district’s revenue comes directly from the state’s funding formula.
Education spending is about 40% of the state’s budget but that money is not spread out evenly across Minnesota school districts. State legislators decide how much money will be spent. That money is allocated according to a complicated funding formula that gives vastly different amounts of money to each school district.
Basic Formula and Categorical Aid:
Every school district receives a basic amount of money for per pupil spending. For FY2023, that amount is $6,863 per pupil. The basic state aid formula has eroded significantly since 1991 as funding has not kept up with inflation. MN school districts would receive an additional $1,605 per pupil if inflation were factored in. Click here to see how the basic formula has not kept up with inflation.
The rest of the state money is distributed according to a complicated formula known as categorical aid. STMA does not qualify for much categorical aid. Categorical aid is somewhat arbitrary and the exact reasons why some school districts qualify and other school districts do not, is determined by state legislators. In short, this means STMA receives thousands of dollars less than other school districts. Click here to see STMA's categorical aid.
Why School Funding Matters to You and YOUR Child
In FY2020, STMA joined the Lake Conference. While we are similar to districts in the Lake Conference in academics, arts, activities, and athletics, in funding we are very different.
This graph shows the amount each STMA student receives from the state compared to the amount other districts receive. In this example, the Hopkins School District receives $5,448 more per pupil than STMA. That’s a difference of over $36 million per year!
STMA ranks 325/328--- almost dead last--- in general education per-pupil revenue among Minnesota public school districts. To learn more click here.
Operating Referendum (AKA Operating Levy):
MN school districts augment their state aid revenue by asking taxpayers to support an operating levy. Approximately 70% of public school districts have an operating levy. STMA does not have an operating levy.
The cost of raising school revenue through an operating levy is tied to a school district’s commercial property base. The STMA community is “property poor,” meaning there’s little commercial and industrial development to expand the tax base causing the tax burden to fall heavily on residential homeowners. For an operating levy, STMA taxpayers pay significantly more than taxpayers in neighboring districts who reside in a “property rich” community with lots of commercial and industrial development.
This graph shows the amount taxpayers in varying districts pay for the same per pupil operating levy. The disparity in operating levies between school districts is growing and can range from $0 to over $2,500 per pupil, leaving many students without the opportunities they need and deserve.
Special Education Cross Subsidy:
The State of MN does not fully fund special education despite a plethora of mandates that districts must follow. For example, in FY2022 STMA diverted $4.4 million or $631 per pupil of funding meant for regular education classroom instruction to cover mandated but unreimbursed special education programming. The $4.4 million that STMA must divert from its general fund to pay for special education mandates substantially limits opportunities for all STMA students. To learn more click here.
STMA has worked hard to increase student achievement and offer exceptional educational opportunities to help students develop their full potential and build character. In order for us to maintain this investment in our students, we need to find a way of funding public schools that create greater equity for all students regardless of their zip code. ALL students deserve support and opportunities for students should not be determined by where their parents choose to live.
“We in America do not have a government by the majority. We have a government by the majority who participate.”~Thomas Jefferson
YOUR voice MATTERS! Please take the time to have your voice heard regarding these very important issues. Thanks, in advance, for your advocacy and support of STMA Schools!
According to the Congressional Management Foundation, if a legislator has not already arrived at a firm decision on an issue, YOU can influence his/her decision by using advocacy strategies. See below for advocacy strategies and the percentage of influence.
- In-Person Visit---94%
- Email with Personalized Message Describing Impact---92%
- Letter with Personalized Message Describing Impact---88%
- Phone Call---84%
- Form Email---56%
- Form Letter---50%
Ways to Advocate for STMA Students and Schools:
1. Schedule an in-person visit
2. Send an email
3. Make a call
4. Stay Informed
Follow on social media:
Post on your own social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter)
5. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
Keep these tips in mind when making an in-person visit, sending an e-mail, or sending a letter.
- Start by thanking them for their support and work in advocating for STMA children.
- Think about how to deliver a concise and clear message that is brief (think 5-7 minutes maximum)
- Be clear on goals (why are you visiting/writing/e-mailing?)
- Know your issue (what is your concern?)
- Clearly state “the ask” (what do you want?)
- Connect the issue to STMA (how does it affect YOUR child, community, grandchild, etc.); They do not want a form letter; it is critical to tell YOUR story and how it affects YOUR child(ren)
- Follow-up ASAP
Dear Senator Kiffmeyer,
Thank you for your support of students in the St. Michael-Albertville School District.
Please support bill [name] [list bill number if known (i.e. SF936)]. Describe how the bill would impact STMA Schools. For example, you may say … STMA receives significantly less funding than other school districts in Minnesota. We currently rank 325 out of 327 Minnesota School Districts in general education per pupil revenue. In fact, STMA students receive $9,362 per pupil in state aid while students from Burnsville receive $14,549 and students in Richfield receive $13,963. Children should not be penalized for choosing to live in the STMA community. Please help STMA students by fixing this disparity.
Insert concise, personal story about how this issue impacts YOU and YOUR child(ren). You can talk about missed opportunities such as fewer world language options, fewer advanced classes, fewer art/music options, fewer elective options, etc.
Thank you for your time and for advocating for STMA students.
Postal Address (include so they know you are a constituent), email address, & possibly phone number
- Where Do You Live?
- Schools for Equity in Education (SEE)
- Video -- Minnesota's Educational Opportunity Gap -- Where do you live?
- Legislation and Bill Status Resource
- Who Represents Me?
- Governor's Website