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Public Education Funding Reform: The "Minnesota Miracle of 1971": Overview

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Overview

Third grade class, Douglas School, 328 West Stevens, St. Paul, 1950.

The Minnesota Miracle of 1971 resulted from a ten-year effort to restructure Minnesota's fiscal policy. Major contributors to the effort were Paul Gilje, then research director of the Citizens League; Representative Charles R. Weaver of Anoka; the Metropolitan Council; the 1967-1971 Republican legislatures; and state Senator Wendell Anderson, the 1970 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, elected governor, who campaigned on a pledge to make sweeping changes in the financing of schools and of local governments.

Rising public discontent with soaring property taxes created the ferment for needed reform of long-established policies: local governments and school districts were financed solely through autonomously levied property taxes; municipalities were forced to compete for commercial-industrial development to boost their tax base; and disparities in the quality of education between property-tax-rich and property-tax-poor districts were egregious. Reform laws enacted to resolve those issues, taken together, came to be known as the Minnesota Miracle of 1971. The Minnesota Miracle survived, relatively unchanged, for more than 30 years until 2002, when the property tax structure was again revised by legislative action.

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