School Funding Cases in Minnesota

in Minnesota Litigation

Historical Background

In 1988, 52 school districts and ten parents brought suit claiming that unequal school funding created disparities in educational opportunity that violated the Minnesota Constitution. The trial court held that education is a fundamental right under the state constitution and that wealth-based disparities between districts created an “impermissible absence of uniformity” in the state’s schools. In 1993, the Supreme Court of Minnesota reversed the trial court in Skeen v. State, 505 N.W. 2d 299, despite affirming that education is a fundamental right. The Court’s reasoning relied heavily on the plaintiffs’ concession that the schools provided an adequate education “because the state’s portion of the funding is equally distributed–and admittedly provides the funding for an adequate education–we believe that the present system of education funding withstands constitutional scrutiny.”

In 1995, the Minneapolis NAACP sued the state, claiming that students in that city were denied a basic education, in violation of the state constitution’s education and equal protection clauses. In 2000, the parties settled with an agreement creating a new accountability system for the Minneapolis schools and expanding the access of low-income families to magnet and suburban schools.

Costing Out

In November 2006, August, Augenblick, Palaich, and Associates released a cost study undertaken on behalf of the organization P.S. Minnesota that estimated that the state’s schools needed over $1 billion more in order to provide all students an adequate education. Using the Professional Judgment method of costing out, the study concluded that the state had to boost funding above 2004-05 levels by $1.79 billion, a 30% increase. Using the Successful Schools method, the study concluded that funding had to be increased by $1.05 billion, or 18%. The study recommended the use of the Professional Judgment method and figures.

Useful Resources

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Report, “Public School Finance Systems in the United States and Canada,” describes the Minnesota school funding system in detail, as of the 1998-99 school year.

Last updated: March 2008


Previous post:

Next post: