From the Superintendent: Now is the time to act for school funding

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Dear Colleagues,

A few weeks ago I wrote about some of the hard budget realities SPPS faces. These realities surfaced again this week as the legislature provided their education budgets.  

  • House target is $156 million
  • Senate target is $361 million
  • Governor’s target is $694 million

The Minnesota House proposed a per pupil funding increase of .06 percent. While the Senate proposal is somewhat better with a 1.0 percent increase, neither the House nor Senate offers any increases to Special Education or English Language Learning funding. Both provide increases in Pre-K programs however most of that money is not available until the 2016-17 school year.

This is unacceptable. In a time of a near $1.9 billion state surplus, we should not fund our schools as though there is a deficit.

Inadequate state funding is not new. Per pupil funding has not kept pace with inflation for over a decade. In the past we used our fund balance to help absorb the budget gap left by the state. A fund balance is the amount that is left at the end of each fiscal year. A portion of our fund balance is “unassigned” or not allocated for a specific purpose because it is set aside for emergencies. Think of it like a savings account. You cannot keep using your savings for ongoing expenses, you eventually run out of money.

For the current year, we used $8.1 million from our unassigned fund balance. We have $2.5 million available to use next year. This is not nearly enough to offset the impact of our projected expenditure increases.

My team and I will continue to advocate for equitable funding at the capitol and we need your help. This is a hectic time of year for everyone however now is the time to act. The decisions made in the coming weeks will impact school budgets for the next two years. You can help by contacting key lawmakers to share your thoughts about how schools should be funded. SPPS is urging them to:

  • Use the Governor’s target for education
  • Provide inflationary increases to the general education formula
  • Fund Special Education, English Language Learners, and pre-K school programs
  • Fund the state mandated teacher development and evaluation law

Thank you for all your advocacy and support of the students and families of Saint Paul Public Schools.

Your very proud superintendent,

Silva Signature

 

Valeria S. Silva