How Healthy is the Dream?
If you have not had the chance to view this you tube video of Susan Boyle singing I Dreamed a Dream from Les' Miserables it worth a look if you enjoy watching Simon looking stunned. The clip is fantastic but it is the title of the song that interests me more for this posting, in many cases we dream of opportunities and many of them are available in the United States. One of those opportunities is education which is available through our public school system, but that opportunity comes with a price tag which is currently supported on the local level through state aid, property tax levies and bonding referendums. Given the current economic environment one may ask how healthy is the dream of providing quality education, particularly on the local level?
The Minnesota Legislature's House Research Department provides a great guide to education finance that defines pertinent terms, explains the formulas used to determine aid available to school districts, and reports on the amount of aid available to individual school districts.
In particular, the bonding referendums are the most interesting to me. The Fiscal Analysis Department, Minnesota House of Representatives has a fairly easy to understand description of referendum funding requirements and how state aid is used to equalize funding across districts that have varying tax bases. Without some of this background information I would struggle to understand the complicated formulas used to determine how education is funded.
Independent School District (ISD) #276 in Minnetonka makes an interesting case to change referendum requirements. They contend that, in the past referendum funding was used to support and provide services outside core educational requirements. Now, it appears that referendum funding may need to be used to provide the core services. Because the state issues a cap on referendum funding for school districts each year and state aid has been decreasing, ISD #276 proposes removing the cap and allowing school districts to pursue additional dollars through referendum. To view their proposal, take a quick look at page three of this document, . Will proposals such as Minnetonka's keep the dream of education healthy or will it cause additional or long term issues? I am interested in hearing your thoughts.