New Data Shows How MN Spending on Public Education Ranks Nationally

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau gives a look at how public education spending in Minnesota compares to other states.

ST. PAUL, Minn. – New data comparing public education finances in each state has mixed results for Minnesota.

Every year, the U.S. Census Bureau surveys the nation’s elementary and secondary school systems, collecting data on revenues, expenditures, and debt and assets. The annual report focuses on per pupil spending, including comparing how much money is spent on instruction versus support services. The latest report looks at fiscal year 2015.

In 2015 Minnesota landed in the middle of the pack in per pupil spending, spending $11,949 per student. While the number is higher than the national average of $11,392 per student, it pales in comparison to states like New York and Alaska, both spending over $20,000 per student. When stacked up against all 50 states, Minnesota winds up 18th overall.

Minnesota’s average performance in per pupil spending does not come as a surprise. Alpha News reported earlier this year on Minnesota’s C+ rating from Education Week. According to Education Week, Minnesota ranks 11th in the nation for K-12 education. The state’s strong K-12 achievement and “Chance-For-Success” rating balances out a poor score in the financial analysis. Education Week gave Minnesota a D for per pupil spending.

Last month the state legislature passed an education bill that included $483 million in new spending, according to the Pioneer Press. For each of the two years in the biennium budget, per pupil spending will increase by 2 percent, which ends up being about $245 more per student. While some celebrated the increase, it does little to change the state’s ranking. In 2015, Minnesota’s nearest competitor, Hawaii, spent $906 more per student.

Despite the mediocre finish in overall per pupil spending, Minnesota rose to the top in allocation of resources, spending about 65 percent of its per pupil dollars on instruction. This puts the state above the national average of 60 percent. Minnesota spent the third highest share on instruction compared to other states, only bested by North Carolina and Nebraska.

The report also revealed state funds contribute more to Minnesota schools than local or federal funds. Almost 66 percent of school funds come from the state, whereas local funds contribute 29 percent. Tom Melcher, director of the program finance division for the Minnesota Department of Education, told the Star Tribune the greater funding from the state provides better stability for school districts.

“When you rely on property taxes heavily as some other states do, it is very difficult for the low tax base school districts to keep up,” Melcher told the Star Tribune. “It just results in much greater disparities.”

Click here to read the full report from the Census Bureau.

Christine Bauman