ST. PAUL -- Minnesota spends more than $13 billion a year on public schools and about 95 percent of it comes from state and local taxpayers.
Public schools are one of the largest pieces of the state budget — closing in on $9 billion a year and making up about 65 percent of the money schools receive. Local property taxes raise another 30 percent of public school revenue and are more than $3 billion annually.
The rest, about $650 million in 2017, the last year federal data was available, comes from Washington, D.C.
Compared with the national average, a smaller portion of Minnesota education revenue comes from the federal government and local taxpayers. State resources make up for it, covering significantly more than the 47 percent national average.
When funding is decided
A lot of factors play a role in how much a school district receives in state, federal and local funding. State and federal officials take into account things like poverty, students’ special needs and other challenges when crafting spending plans.
The Legislature sets the state education budget every two years, yet lawmakers often make adjustments in the in-between years as part of a supplemental budget. Local school officials make adjustments to local school tax levies each fall, but those changes are typically modest and any large influx of new money requires direct voter approval.
Six districts in the east metro are asking voters to approve school levies this fall. The measures will pay for everything from day-to-day operations to technology to building renovations.
Federal funding is traditionally set each year, but Congress hasn’t passed a budget on time in two decades, instead using “continuing resolutions” to fund different sectors of government like the U.S. Department of Education.
While federal dollars are only a small part of what Minnesota schools get, it often comes with a lot of strings attached.
One of the biggest complaints education advocates have is the federal government sets a lot of rules for things schools have to do — from how students with special needs are educated to requiring annual measures of student proficiency — but do not cover the cost.
For example, the gap between the cost of government-required special-education services and the funding provided is nearing $800 million a year.
How the money is spent
Minnesota spends on average about $14,000 per student each year in primary and secondary schools. More than half of that money goes directly toward classroom instruction, with the majority of it covering teachers’ salaries and wages.
Another chunk, about 9 percent, related to instruction goes toward support services for students and educators. Spending on support services has steadily grown in recent years as educators better understand the many challenges students are facing.
The remaining 37 percent of per-pupil spending covers everything from school administration, transportation, food services and facility operations. Capital costs — essentially building and maintaining facilities — accounts for more than 16 percent.
How Minnesota stacks up
Ranking school spending is tricky because the cost of building and maintaining schools and educating students varies so widely state to state. Construction and energy costs are higher in colder states like Minnesota while teachers in places like New York City and Los Angeles demand higher salaries.
Nevertheless, Minnesota typically ranks in the upper half of states when it comes to per-pupil spending in public schools.
The U.S. Department of Education’s annual survey of states put Minnesota 18th among the states in overall per-pupil spending.
New York, Connecticut and Washington, D.C., were the top spenders per student while Idaho, Utah and Arizona were at the bottom.