There is much that can be examined in education

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz is considering moving the state away from making school districts rely on local tax levy referendums to fund their operations. A report in the Star Tribune this week said Walz is considering overhauling the way the state funds school districts, to make the state more responsible for school funding and making referendums “rare or extinct.”

Such an overhaul would be difficult. School finance is a complex issue. Trying to equalize funding for school districts that are so different in size, location, demographic makeup and property tax base is no small challenge.

It would be expensive too. The newspaper reports the state’s K-12 school districts bring in $1.6 billion in referendum levies all together. Adding that to the state’s current K-12 appropriation is an expensive prospect. And it wouldn’t be a one-year addition. School budgets are not going to go down in the years to follow.

But reducing the need for school districts to hold referendums to fund operations would be a great boon to schools across the state. The need to go to the voters every few years is a burden for districts. There are no guarantees that a majority of voters will agree to pay more.

So we welcome Walz’s willingness to look into an overhaul of the school funding system. While he is at it, we hope the governor will open his heart and mind to the possibility of educational alternatives. The focus should be on students and families, modern technology and best methods. The state constitution demands that public education exist, but the delivery system is not specified. What is specified is that the public schools be thorough and efficient. Innovators should have a seat at the table. And they should not be drowned out by the old guard, including teachers unions that have an inherent bias in that they seek to retain jobs and power.

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