This column was submitted on behalf of the entire Cambridge-Isanti school board.
Education is about providing students with access to opportunities. It is a boundary breaker and a gateway to a future of possibilities. At Cambridge-Isanti Schools, every student matters, which is why our tagline is “every student, every day.” As leaders who are committed to student achievement, it is our responsibility to ensure our students are provided a voice while we advocate for their best interests. We work diligently each and every day to serve our students and provide them with opportunities despite inadequate resources due to inequitable funding from the state.
While we are encouraged by a heightened focus on education in our state, funding remains problematic. Rural school districts like ours rely heavily on state funding. State funding has not kept up with inflation since 2003. According to the Minnesota Department of Education, this equals nearly $600 per pupil of missed funding for C-I Schools.
This $600 gap per pupil is especially troublesome for greater Minnesota school districts like C-I Schools that are more dependent on the basic formula than metro area districts that have greater access to local operating referendum revenue due to higher household incomes and property wealth. Our local property owners have been disproportionately burdened to help provide resources for educational services.
Our district provides the best possible education for our students despite disadvantages in funding. We not only want, but expect more for our students. Every student should have equitable access to opportunities. Every student must be afforded the same set of educational circumstances that makes it possible for them to flourish as members of our society. No student should be denied educational opportunities because of their zip code. Together, we can do better for students.
Now is the time to respond and improve the way we fund our schools. In 2003 the state committed to adequately fund public schools, so we need the governor and legislature to fulfill this promise by using part of the $1.54 billion state surplus to meet this commitment. A 3 percent increase on the formula in both years of this upcoming biennium and predictable, forecast increases tied to inflation into the future will help to meet diverse student needs in our district and beyond.
It would also provide predictability to budgeting that does not presently exist. The uncertainty of school funding has only provided further challenges as school districts such as ours strive to responsibly manage its resources with a limited and unpredictable financial picture.
We urge Minnesota, its legislators, officials and representatives, to come together so we can eliminate the relevancy of zip codes on students’ educational experience. Let us erase boundaries and provide gateways to a better future for our communities. By fixing school funding, let us make an investment in all students that declares every student matters.