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HISTORY TOPICS

Public Education — The Minnesota Miracle

Seventh and Eighth grades, New Richland Public School. Location no. L3.2 r57The 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.

GET STARTED WITH SECONDARY SOURCES:

  • Development of Minnesota Public Schools, 1820-1865, by Thomas M. Benepe.
    St. Paul, Minn.: St. Paul Abstract & Title Guarantee Co., 1968. M.Ed. thesis (Macalester College), 1960.
    MHS call number: LA 310 .B4.
  • "Educating for the Future," by Clarke A. Chambers.
    In Minnesota in a Century of Change: The State and Its People Since 1900: pp. 473-506.
    St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Historical Society, 1989.
    MHS call number: Reading Room F 606 .M6638 1989.
  • A History of Public-School Support in Minnesota, 1858-1917, by Frances Elizabeth Kelley.
    Minneapolis, Minn.: University of Minnesota, 1920.
    MHS call number: LB 2825 .D36.
  • "The Minnesota Miracle: A Roundtable Discussion," by Steven Dornfeld.
    In Minnesota History, vol. 60, no. 8 (winter 2007-8): pp. 312-325.
    St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Historical Society, 2007.
    Key players discuss the 1971 debate that produced a major overhaul of the state's property-tax and school-finance system.
    MHS call number: Reading Room F601.5 .M66 v.60.
  • Remaking the Minnesota Miracle: Facing New Fiscal Realities: Report Summary.
    Minneapolis, Minn.: Citizens League, [1990].
    MHS call number: HJ 515 .R46 1990.

PRIMARY RESOURCES:

  • Citizens League Records.
    This collection contains records of a nonpartisan, citizens, public affairs research, and educational organization based in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The group is organized into committees that research current affairs issues affecting various aspects of community life. The collection contains research reports and subject files in several fields, including education.
    Note: Photographs relating to the Citizens League can be found in the Minnesota Historical Society's A-V Collection.
    MHS call number: See the green Manuscripts Alpha Notebooks—filed under Citizens League (Minneapolis, Minn.)—for a detailed list of boxes and locator numbers (there are 56 boxes, but not all relate to this topic), or use an electronic version of the inventory.
  • Minnesota State Board of Education Minutes and Agenda Packets (1919-1991).
    Master set of minutes for May 1919 through 1960; and agenda packets, which include minutes, as well as memos, reports, and other documents acted upon at each meeting, for 1950-1979 and 1981-1991. The most useful years for this topic are 1971-1975.
    Note: This collection is for advanced researchers who are willing to look through a lot of material.
    MHS call number: See the black State Archives Notebooks—filed under Education Department, Board of Education—for a detailed list of boxes and locator numbers (there are 7 boxes of material for the years 1971-1975), or use an electronic version of the inventory.
  • Minnesota Governor (1971-1976: Anderson), Numerical Files.
    The most likely series to find material on this topic would be the Numerical Files; "Education" is file number 37 in each year (1971-1976).
    Note: This collection is for advanced researchers who are willing to look through a lot of material.
    MHS call number: See the black State Archives Notebooks—filed under Governor. Anderson, Wendell: Numerical Files—for a detailed list of boxes and locator numbers (there are 6 boxes containing numerical file 37), or use an electronic version of the inventory.
  • Visual Resources Database subjects that may be useful for this topic:
    • Education
    • [County name]. [Town name]. Schools
      (e.g. Brown County. Sleepy Eye. Schools)
  • Check the library catalog for other materials.