SEE Update 2/15/2013

What’s happening at the Capitol  
The pace is definitely picking up.  Over 100 education-related bills have been introduced.  Those heard in committee move through the process.  This list has the relevant education bills,an x next to the bill number notes if it has been acted on by a committee.

Why should the kids in our classrooms today pay in lost educational opportunities for the political choices made by the adults?

Several bills were heard in House Education Finance Committee that would pay back the shift. The Legislature and the Governor needed to find a sustainable and permanent solution to the budget deficit in the last biennium.  However, bipartisan agreement could not be found so both sides agreed to the shift.  Paying back the shift now would cost over $500 million and would not provide any new money for our schools.  Inflationary increases to the basic formula should be a top priority so districts do not have to make cuts just to keep up with inflation. The impetus for an accelerated payback of the shift seems linked more to campaign promises and results than what is best for the kids. Read more.

The Governor’s E-12 provisions from his budget proposal are in
HF630(Marquart)/SF453(Wiger).  The Chairs of the House and Senate Education Finance Committees are carrying the bills.  These bills will be the foundation for the final education omnibus bills.  The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) published  this informative bill summary. More information is also on the SEE website.  The Governor would invest $344 million more into E-12 education over the next two years.  Chair Paul Marquart has indicated that he would like to see that number a lot higher.  The Governor’s bill has several major areas of concern.
  • The 1% increase to the basic formula in 2013-14 will not cover rising costs.  At a minimum, schools need inflationary increases to maintain class sizes, program offerings and other valuable educational opportunities.
  • In the 2014-15, the Governor invests $122 million to reduce the special education unfunded costs which frees up general education dollars that are used to cover the mandated services.  The dollars are distributed in such a way that some districts will get a increase of 1% while other districts will see increases over 4%.  Without any additional revenue on the basic formula, districts with the lower increases will struggle to maintain programming for their students.
  • None of the Education Finance Working Group’s recommendations to lower the cost of school levies in low property wealth districts are included.
HF630/SF453 is the starting point.  As the committees vet the bill, changes will be made.  Much work needs to be done to ensure our schools are adequately and equitably funded for the next two years.

More on what is happening at the Capitol  
HF573(Ward, J.E.)/SF446(Dibble) was introduced.  For years, a top priority for Education Minnesota, the state teachers union, has been to establish a mandated health insurance program that would be run by the union.  Many school districts across the state have negotiated good health care packages for school employees at very low cost.  Would health care costs increase in these districts under the proposed new health care plan?  School administrators will watch this bill closely.

 

SF160/HF198, carried by Chair of the Senate Education Finance Committee and the Chair of the House Education Policy Committee, would raise the dropout age from 16 to 18 years old.  Testifiers suggested that graduation rates would increase with this change.  A feisty discussion began when members pointed out that multiple studies in other states show graduation rates do not increase when the dropout age is raised.  If a 16 or 17 year old really does not want to be at school, forcing them will not increase their likelihood to graduate, causes a negative ripple effect on the students who do want to learn, and is costly to the state.  Perhaps efforts should focus on strategies that have demonstrated successes such as the AVID program, which closes the achievement gap and increases graduation rates for at-risk students.

Other news from the Capitol:
School integration supporters pitch revamped aid plan
Session Daily – 2/14/13

After-school, alternative programs could get more aid
Session Daily – 2/13/13

Starting Line: For schools, no free lunch — but increased reimbursements Session Daily – 2/11/13

Read Brad’s Blog for more details on the week’s events.

What can you do?
SF177 – the equalization bill – has been moved from the Senate Education Finance Committee to the Senate Tax Committee.  As the author of the bill is the Chair of the Tax Committee, the bill will definitely be heard in the Senate.  The level of support in the House is not clear.  So if you haven’t done so, please take the time to contact your legislators.

 

With SF177 (Skoe-DFL-Clearbrook) to reference, email your legislators and leadership asking them to support this legislation that makes school levies more affordable in low property wealth districts.  Always include the bill number, SF177 in this case.
For background information . . .SEE’s pizza video  defines the problem. This chart shows the cost to the local taxpayer in each school district for the same levy amount for their schools.  Without adequate equalization, some district taxpayers pay two or three times more.

 

Key concepts that you can to get started:

  • Support SF177 to reduce the gaps in educational opportunities based on zip code and provide fairness for taxpayers in your community.
  • Inadequate state funding makes our schools dependent on voter-approved levies just to provide the basics for our students.
  • The disparity in the amount of levy dollars raised from one district to the next puts many children at a distinct disadvantage due to lost opportunities,
  • Increasing equalization will lower the cost of levies in school districts without significant commercial or industrial developments.
  • The state has a constitutional obligation to fund schools fairly for all kids.
  • The time is now!
Legislators need to hear from you!  You can put these concepts into your own words, don’t worry about touching on them all or getting everything right, just share your personal concerns.
Always include your name and address in the email.  
You can find out who represents you and their contact information here.
Be sure to copy these key leaders in your email:
sen.chuck.wiger@senate.mn, sen.rod.skoe@senate.mn, sen.tom.bakk@senate.mn, sen.lyle.koenen@senate.mn, rep.paul.marquart@house.mn, rep.paul.thissen@house.mn, rep.ann.lenczewski@house.mn, rep.jim.davnie@house.mn,

If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

 

Deb Griffiths

Director of Communications and Community Outreach

Schools for Equity in Education

612-309-0089

deb.griffiths@schoolsforequity.org

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