Minnesota Governor’s Voucher Bill Disregards Suggested Changes

By Anne Bridgman — March 06, 1985 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Gov. Rudy Perpich of Minnesota last week sent to the state legislature a version of his public-school voucher plan that disregards many of the recommendations of a task force established by the commissioner of education to analyze the proposal.

The Governor’s $21.8-million “Access to Excellence” bill, which was to be introduced in the legislature late last week, would allow 11th- and 12th-grade students to choose which high school to attend--without regard to district lines--by 1986-87, and would extend that option to all public-school students in the state by 1988-89.

The Governor’s bill, which calls for a student’s state aid to follow him or her to the nonresident district, would also allow high-school students to take courses at public postsecondary institutions.

A 21-member Task Force on Public School Open Enrollment appointed by Commissioner of Education Ruth E. Randall had recommended instead that students be allowed to transfer to another school district only if the nonresident district offered a class or program that was not offered in the student’s resident district.

Moreover, because of the policy problems associated with sending money earmarked for elementary and secondary education to colleges and universities, the panel rejected the idea of permitting high-school students to attend higher-education institutions.

“The reasoning behind [our proposal] was that education funding is very short to start with,” said Merton Johnson, chairman of the panel and of the Bloomington, Minn., school board. “If we were to spend additional dollars to take students from one program to another when the program is already offered [in the student’s resident district], that would be fiscally irresponsible.”

Funds for the bill, if approved, would come from reshuffling money already included in the Governor’s budget.

Refining Issues

The proposal, the first of its kind in Minnesota to receive such strong gubernatorial backing, was announced by Governor Perpich in January. (See Education Week, Jan. 17, 1985.) The task force appointed to study the proposal was charged with analyzing such issues as transportation, desegregation, extracurricular activities, school-selection procedures, and geographic limits.

Mr. Johnson maintained that the panel’s report “doesn’t deviate from the Governor’s proposal,” but refines it within set fiscal limits.

But Laura Zahn, executive aide to Commissioner Randall, noted that “the task force’s report is different ... from what the Governor intended.” She added, however, that the panel “did affirm the Governor’s decision of having choice. It’s just a matter of how they would implement it. They tried to keep it as open as was workable.”

Governor’s Commitment

Thomas A. Nelson, chairman of the state Senate’s education-aid committee, is the chief Senate sponsor of the Governor’s bill, which also includes funds for staff development, testing of learner outcomes, an instructional-effectiveness program, and a management-assistance project. A number of bills similar to the Governor’s, but with various modifications, will probably be introduced by other lawmakers, an aide to the Governor said.

Senator Nelson said last week that the Governor’s commitment to the free-choice concept will help the bill’s chances for legislative approval. “From my nine years of experience, if a Governor commits strongly to something and carries that commitment through, it gives it an edge in the legislative process. And my sense is that [Governor Perpich] is committed.”

Legislators and educators agree that the bill will be the subject of several hearings and considerable discussion in the legislature. The lawmakers have until May 21 to act on it, but Senator Nelson said he expects “this will either pass or fail by mid-April.”

Excellence in Education

The purpose of the “Access to Excellence” bill, according to its preamble, is to “give parents and students increased opportunity to find excellence in education while giving local school officials increased opportunity to offer excellence in instruction to students.”

Under the terms of the bill, a student’s parent or guardian would apply to a nonresident district--by Dec. 1 of each year for the next school year--to participate in the “curricular offerings” of that district. A student would be able to participate in extracurricular or cocurricular activities as determined by the Minnesota State High School League, which governs such activities.

Parents would be notified of their child’s acceptance by a nonresident district by Feb. 1 and would have 10 days to notify the district of their intent to accept.

Desegregation Rules

A district would not be required to accept students under the proposal, but once it indicated a willingness to admit nonresidents, it would be able to deny an application only on the grounds of lack of space or because acceptance of the application would “put the district out of compliance with a desegregation plan that complies with state-board rules.”

If the transfers in and out of such a district would make it noncompliant with desegregation rules, the district would be required to limit the number of majority- and minority-group students who could transfer in or out.

The selection of pupils to transfer in or out of that district, under the bill, would be made by the district “based on equitable criteria developed by the school board, or ... by lot.”


A participating district would provide transportation within its boundaries for resident and nonresident pupils, with the state supplying transportation aid for nonresidents.

Parents of pupils choosing to attend schools in other districts could apply to their home district for reimbursement for transporting students to the district border. The state board, in turn, would determine how to pay districts for reimbursing the parents. The one-way mileage limit for reimbursement would be 30 miles.

Postsecondary Institutions

The Governor’s bill would allow a parent to apply to send a child to a public postsecondary institution. The foundation aid that goes to the district for the pupil, under the program, would be paid to the postsecondary institution under a set formula that takes into account the time the student spent on campus.

Parents of students attending a postsecondary institution would ask their home school district for transportation reimbursement. The state board would be responsible for establishing a means-based formula for the payments.

The Governor rejected a task-force recommendation to establish a special state fund to ease the financial impact on districts that lose state aid because of student transfers.

A version of this article appeared in the March 06, 1985 edition of Education Week as Minnesota Governor’s Voucher Bill Disregards Suggested Changes

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP