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Local Commentary -- Minnesota students performing well despite difficult economic situation

By Torrey Westrom

We have encountered unsteady economic times and many folks have been working extra hard over the last year or so. I hope you and your family are able to take some time to relax as we celebrate this Labor Day holiday weekend.

It is as important as ever to support local and in-state businesses and/or workers as we continue efforts to get the economy back on track.

The good news is that Minnesota employers added 10,300 jobs in July, the state's first monthly employment gains since August 2008.

The Labor Day weekend is followed by the start of the new school year, so I'd like to pass along the latest information about school funding and placement test scores. The U.S. Census Bureau's latest Public Education Finances Report was issued recently, providing data on the financial activity of public elementary and secondary school systems from the 2006-07 school year.

Here are Minnesota's national rankings in terms of per-pupil revenue amounts. It's interesting that we rank high in state spending and nearly at the bottom for federal revenue.

•17th in total education revenue ($11,590 per pupil)

•49th in federal revenue ($670 per pupil)

•7th in revenue from state sources ($7,679 per pupil)

•38th in revenue from local sources ($3,241 per pupil)

As for the college entrance exams, Minnesota students remain among the nation's best on the ACT. The high school graduates from Minnesota who took it had an average score of 22.7 on the 36-point scale. That's a tick higher than last year.

The ACT assesses critical-reasoning skills in English, mathematics, reading and science. The results were released today by the Iowa-based nonprofit organization that oversees the test.

Among all states, the Minnesota average was 10th best. But of the states where at least half of the graduating class took the test, Minnesota's average topped the chart.

Minnesota students outperformed the national average on the SAT by about 100 points. But the number of test takers went down by more than 14 percent, to just over 3,000 test takers. The ACT is a more popular exam for Minnesota students.

Have an enjoyable and relaxing Labor day!

Torrey Westrom is Minnesota House Representative for District 11A.