Skip to main content Skip to office menu Skip to footer
Capital IconMinnesota Legislature

Trust lands potential ‘gold mine’

Published (3/18/2010)
By Kris Berggren
Share on: 

If Minnesota follows Utah’s lead, it could grow a stealth education revenue source: its 2.5 million-acre Permanent School Fund lands.

Minnesota’s school trust lands, mostly in the state’s northern third, are from a colonial-era federal land trust that dedicated a parcel of each township to be used permanently to fund public schools.

After three years of heading a study group on Minnesota’s fund, Rep. Denise Dittrich (DFL-Champlin) told the House K-12 Education Finance Division at a March 16 informational hearing she has “formulated some serious concerns about the management and the return on investment of the school trust lands.”

Dittrich sponsors HF3475, which would establish an independent agency to oversee the management of Minnesota’s permanent school lands, now under Department of Natural Resources management.

Revenue from the Minnesota fund is expected to generate $27 million for school districts this year mostly through mining and logging activities, according to House fiscal analysts — but it could be worth tens of millions more, if Utah’s example is an indicator.

At a second informational hearing, Margaret Bird, director of Children’s Land Alliance Supporting Schools, told the House K-12 Education Policy and Oversight Committee March 16 that Utah’s fund, after reform efforts there, transformed from a “molehill” into a “gold mine” worth $1 billion. It generates around $150 million in school revenue annually from land sales and leases for a variety of uses including oil and gas, wind power, geothermal fields, telecommunication sites, grazing and farming.

Interest and dividend income from the Utah fund is distributed to individual schools. Its use is determined by each site’s school community council, an elected group of parents or guardians and school employees. Minnesota funds are distributed to school districts as undesignated general fund revenue.

Two House committees approved the bill and sent it to the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee.

Sen. Chuck Wiger (DFL-Maplewood) sponsors a companion, SF3042, which awaits action by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

Session Weekly More...

Session Weekly Home

Related Stories

The year without a K-12 law
School funding is flat, no reforms enacted
(view full story) Published 6/1/2010

House K-12 omnibus bill fast-tracked
Senate slow to respond with companion legislation
(view full story) Published 5/13/2010

K-12 education omnibus bill stalls
Teacher licensure proposals in contention
(view full story) Published 5/6/2010

K-12 education bill moves forward
Measures would activate reforms, stabilize school funding
(view full story) Published 4/29/2010

Resuscitating Race to the Top bid
New bid could hinge on proposals to boost teacher effectiveness
(view full story) Published 4/22/2010

Raiders of the lost fund
Slew of reforms could boost Permanent School Fund income
(view full story) Published 3/25/2010

Schools shore up state’s checkbook
Obscure law forces drawdown of school reserves before state can borrow
(view full story) Published 2/25/2010

At Issue: No shifts, no cuts
Education funding in a holding pattern
(view full story) Published 5/29/2009

At Issue: E-12 education bill that might have been
Funding held steady with no shifts proposed, but no Minnesota Miracle
(view full story) Published 5/15/2009

At Issue: Investing in quality care for kids
Lawmakers hope for long-term benefits of early investment
(view full story) Published 4/24/2009

At Issue: Building a better formula
Omnibus K-12 education finance bill floor debate highlights obstacles
(view full story) Published 4/24/2009

At Issue: Whose values are they anyway?
Lawmaker carries on family legacy with sex education bill
(view full story) Published 4/17/2009

First Reading: One school doesn’t fit all
Efforts put forward to tailor charter school law
(view full story) Published 4/10/2009

At Issue: Hopeful education goals in a dismal year
Omnibus bill addresses changing needs and future demands
(view full story) Published 4/3/2009

At Issue: Getting kids to move
Bill aims to ensure ‘No child left on their behind’
(view full story) Published 2/20/2009

First Reading: Accountability funding for all
A ‘New Minnesota Miracle’ requires a leap of faith
(view full story) Published 2/13/2009

At Issue: Q Comp found wanting
Performance measure has perks, but is it affordable?
(view full story) Published 2/6/2009

At Issue: Reforming education, saving money
Bipartisan support shown for mandate reduction and shared services
(view full story) Published 1/23/2009

Feature: Passing the torch of democracy
Youth immerse themselves in lingo and actions of lawmaking
(view full story) Published 1/16/2009