The public schools enroll 851,000 students: 71% White, 10% African American, and 8% Latino, with 38% living in poverty and 7% learning English. The State spends $11,065 per pupil. (Most recent NCES data)
“The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it is the duty of the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools. The legislature shall make such provisions by taxation or otherwise as will secure a thorough and efficient system of public schools throughout the state.” Minn. Const., art. XIII, § 1.
“In no case shall any public money or property be appropriated or used for the support of schools wherein the distinctive doctrines, creeds or tenets of any particular Christian or other religious sect are promulgated or taught.” Minn. Const., art. XIII, § 2.
In 1993, in Skeen v. State, the Minnesota Supreme Court concluded that the constitution’s “general and uniform” language did not require fully equal per-pupil funding and then-current funding differences did not rise to the level of a constitutional violation because the existing system met the basic educational needs of all districts.
The Court held that the Minnesota Constitution creates a fundamental right “because of its overall importance to the state and the explicit language used to describe this constitutional mandate.” The Court also held that the constitution requires the State to provide enough funds to ensure that each student receives an adequate education. The Court found that the State was satisfying this requirement.
The Court reviewed sister-state cases and noted: “In every case from another state in which a violation of a state constitutional provision was found, there were inadequacies in the levels of basic funding, and, consequently, a deficient overall level of education.”
In 1995, the Minneapolis NAACP sued the State, alleging that Minnesota was violating the constitution’s education and equal protection clauses by educating low-income and minority children in inferior schools. In 2000, the parties reached a settlement under which the State agreed to cover the costs of transporting some Minneapolis children to suburban school districts, to ensure that students from low-income families would be given priority at magnet schools, and to issue school report cards and overhaul schools not meeting performance standards.