Rumor: At a recent school board meeting, I heard the district is spending $300/pupil on its equity program.
Reality: A statement made by the district finance director during the levy certification report to the school board on September 23rd was not in reference to the district’s equity program, but rather an explanation of a change at the state level in how funding is allocated. In 2013, the Minnesota Legislature added an additional component to the general education program called location equity. This change was to level the playing field between metro and regional center districts who had referendums and those who did not. Those school districts who didn’t could access up to $424 per adjusted pupil unit in board-approved revenue. In Fiscal Year 2016, the legislature expanded this authority to all districts re titled it local optional revenue (LOR).
The local optional revenue allowance of $424 per pupil unit is subtracted from any existing school district operating referendum (which is the case for Eastern Carver County Schools). No additional funds are provided to Eastern Carver County Schools, but rather it provides more equalization between state aid and local levy. In other words, the local tax levies go down while state aid increases.
In addition to the $424 local operating revenue in 2013, the 2019 Minnesota Legislature transferred $300 per adjusted pupil unit from Minnesota school district’s operating referendum to the local optional revenue category. This transfer will take place in fiscal year 2020-21. The terminology location equity and local optional revenue is interchangeable in school finance terms.
These legislative changes did NOT increase or decrease the amount of funding for the school district. It simply moved funds out of the voter-approved operating referenda to the category of local optional revenue. The funding is used for operations of the school district and is not a levy set aside for equity purposes.
Just to reiterate, that $300/pupil information reported at the Board meeting was not related at all to Eastern Carver County Schools equity programming or spending, but to state funding categories.