The good news that the state Legislature approved an additional $50 per pupil unit in the basic state aid formula during this year’s legislative session was tempered by legislators’ changing the state aid split from 70/30 to 60/40.


The good news that the state Legislature approved an additional $50 per pupil unit in the basic state aid formula during this year’s legislative session was tempered by legislators’ changing the state aid split from 70/30 to 60/40.

For years the state held back 10 percent of the aid due school districts until October following the end of the school year. The delay allowed districts and the state to determine exact enrollment for the preceding school year to determine how much aid was due each district.

“There was a truly legitimate purpose behind (the aid shift) when it was first enacted,” explained Montevideo Superin­tendent of Schools Dr. Luther Heller at the August school board meeting last week and again Tuesday night at an information meeting concerning the proposed levy referendum. “Now it’s strictly a budget balancing gimmick.”

But as the state increased the percentage of the aid delayed to help “balance” the state budget under the Pawlenty administration, first to 23 percent, then to 30 percent, and finally to 40 percent, school districts have been caught in a financial squeeze.

Some school districts have been forced to borrow money to cash flow their operations while waiting for their delayed state aid. Montevideo is no exception.

According to Heller, the school district will have to borrow up to $3 million after the beginning of the new calendar year. But while the district will be able to borrow the money at 1 percent interest, it will be spending $30,000 with nothing to show in return.

And the prospects for the long term are not promising, according to Heller. “It turns into a vicious cycle,” he told school board members. “Schools will have to keep borrowing every year.”

As for the increase in state aid, “The $50 extra on the state aid formula will actually be $30 thanks to the aid shift,” said Heller.

Board member Betty Christensen asked Heller to write a letter to our local state legislators reiterating the original reason for the 90/10 shift.

In other business:
• Heller briefed board members on a new state effort to improve young Minnesotans’ reading abilities. Literacy development aid will be given to districts for third- and fourth-graders based on the percent of third-graders reading proficiently and the percent of fourth-graders who show growth in reading.

The Minnesota Reading Corps reports that nearly 25 percent of third-graders do not reach basic literacy levels.
• Board members were informed that teachers and principals are required now to be evaluated based on plans formulated by the state.

Evaluations will now be required annually for probationary teachers (first three years) and every three years for tenured teachers. Thirty-five percent of teacher evaluations will be based on student improvement as measured by test scores.

In Montevideo, the superintendent formerly has evaluated principals as a matter of policy.