Funding for schools must be fair to all

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 23, 2002

A recent study showed what was likely obvious to superintendents throughout the state: small schools can do less with the dollars they get than larger schools.

It only makes sense. There are certain costs for maintaining buildings and equipment that are the same for all districts, no matter how big or small. In addition, districts with large enrollments can buy supplies in bulk, and thus more cheaply than smaller ones.

Yet, the state pays all school districts at the same per-pupil rate, thus giving an advantage to larger schools over smaller ones.

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Either members of the Legislature have not been aware of the differences, do not care or are aware, care deeply but are too ineffective to do anything about it.

Let's hope it is a lack of awareness. Maybe the study will spur members of the Legislature to pass the $77 million bill to bracket the per-pupil funding to give smaller schools additional funding.

However, if metro area legislators don't care, and rural legislators do not have enough power to make the bill happen, our rural legislators better rethink who their friends are in St. Paul.

While there's a lot of talk about partisanship, the fact is that geography is a dividing line on a horde of issues. If Republicans and Democrats from rural Minnesota don't acknowledge that and join together, funding for rural schools will be one of many issues to fall by the wayside.