The historic School Land Trust Bill was passed overwhelmingly by both the House and Senate and signed into law by the Governor this weekend. Maybe you did not notice since all the coverage was about a stadium. However, we do much good work here that does not make such coverage but is very valuable to the citizens.
Like other states, when Minnesota was granted statehood, one section of land in each township was required to be set aside for the benefit of the school students. Minnesota chose to set aside two sections of land in each township. Upon acceptance of this land grant, a permanent school trust fund was created. These lands were to be managed in such a way that they would generate financial revenue to a trust fund. The fund principle generates interest and dividends which are distributed each year to every school district in the State. Currently, there are more than 2.5 million acres of school land trust property that is supposed to be managed to benefit funding education in the state. These lands currently fall under the management of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The goal of this bill is to shift sole management of the School Trust Lands away from the DNR, which has an inherent conflict of interest between environmental decisions or revenue production for the school students. This bill creates two sources for oversight of the land while still leaving the day-to-day (boots on the ground) efforts in the hands of the DNR.
1. Director of School Trust Lands
- Appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate
- Housed within the Department of Administration
- Funded for a staff of up to 5 people
- Will assume responsibilities currently handled by Department of Natural Resources staff (does not create â€œmore governmentâ€ )
- Would work in collaboration with the DNR commissioner on the management and administration of school trust lands with the sole purpose of maximizing revenues for the purpose of education
2. Legislative Permanent School Fund Commission
- Made up of twelve Legislative members: six from the Senate and six from the House, representing both the Majority and Minority party equally
- Will provide advice to the director regarding management of the trust lands
- Will review reports submitted by the Director to assure revenues are being maximized
Income from the school trust lands have been averaging between $22 million and $27 million annually over the past five years.
Income from forestry on the lands during the past two years dropped 22 percent, and money transferred to the fund had dropped 84 percent.
Minnesota is in the bottom third of states for Land Trust revenue.
In 16 years after making a similar management change, the state of Utah’s trust fund money grew from $18 million to $1.3 billion.
While maximizing revenue, all laws governing caring for the environment will continue to be in place
This is a common sense effort toward positive reform for the express purpose of the original intent of granting this land to Minnesota in statehood and most importantly for its purpose of to be managed to the benefit of our kids. As the legislative stewards for this fund, it is our obligation to make sure the revenue for those funds are being maximized and used for its original intent.
You may hear about partisanship, but I think the passing of the School Land Trust bill will demonstrate some thoughtful efforts across party lines to the benefit of our schools. This is the culmination of a multi-year effort led by many legislators both democrats and republicans.
As always, I welcome your calls at 651-296-0518 or your emails @email@example.com.
421 State Office Building
100 Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
St. Paul, MN 55155