(Editor’s Note: The following column was submitted by Big Lake Schools.)
You may have heard this past legislative session there was great debate at the State Capitol over the budget surplus and discussion around special education cross-subsidy. Unfortunately, our legislators were unable to reach a compromise on funding and adjourned with no movement on special education cross-subsidy. I wanted to let you know specifically how this lack of funding affects our budget for the 2022-2023 school year.
Special education cross-subsidy is the difference between special education expenditures and revenue we receive from the State of Minnesota. Special education services are mandated by the federal and state governments, however, the costs are not fully funded as a result of political gridlock. To continue to support students, districts across the nation must move money from other budget areas to cover the unfunded expenditures. This is called cross-subsidy.
This upcoming school year, our district will operate with a $2.1 million budget deficit, partially as a result of special education cross-subsidy. As of the 2019-2020 school year, our total cross-subsidy was just over $4 million (this is the latest data available). There is no doubt that the mandated services for students are needed and a necessity. However, without a funding mechanism our district must draw funding from other local sources to cover these expenses.
Thankfully, in the short term, our district is in a position of financial strength to withstand this upcoming budget deficit. With ESSER and other COVID-19 relief funds, we are able to absorb this $2.1 million deficit for the upcoming school year and utilize a portion of our unassigned fund balance to minimize the impact. However, this is a short term fix. With inflation and increased expenditures, this is an area of concern for future years.
As a stakeholder in our district, I encourage you to reach out to our legislators with support for increased education funding. In particular, encourage them to consider an increase in funding in special education cross-subsidy as it does have a significant impact on all of our students here at Big Lake Schools.