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The legislature is on Easter/Passover break this week and will return on Monday, April 9.
The House Republicans held a news conference before the break to announce a $50 million school safety package. Hear more. Governor Mark Dayton released his school plans earlier in March. The Senate has not announced their safety plan yet.
The details can only be known once the safety plans are transformed into education finance omnibus bills, which are due by April 20. However, following is a summary on how things appear to be shaping up.
House - $50 million
Safe school levy: In the news conference, Chair Jennifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie) of the House Education Finance committee said the House is "going to put some state money with it [safe school levy] so districts will not have a property tax increase, but they are going to get more money per pupil." SEE commends this effort. The safe school levy is very flexible, allowing both building enhancements for safety and school support professionals such as school resource officers, social workers and counselors. It's uncertain if this is on-going or one-time funding. If one-time, the uncertainty will make school districts more reluctant to use the funds to hire support staff.
Several other items mentioned at the news conference were suicide prevention and threat assessments. This probably means competitive grants for Kognito online suicide prevention training for teachers and safety audits of the physical school building and grounds by security professionals. Chair Loon is a big supporter of school-linked mental health grants that allow schools to contract with local clinics to provide mental health services to students in their schools.
It also sounds like the long-term facility maintenance levy could be used for school safety facility upgrades.
Governor - $21 million
Safe school levy ($16 million) - for just 2018-19, districts and charter schools will get $18 per pupil in state dollars, after which this funding goes away. Beginning in 2019-20, districts can levy through their local property taxes an additional $36 per pupil. The state will spend about $5 million a year to equalize this levy at a low level, ensure that all districts will get a minimum of $30,000 and pay the $36 per pupil for charter schools.
School-linked mental health grants ($5 million).
Senate - $?
Safe school levy - Chair Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) of the Senate Education Finance Committee is pushing for support among her Republican colleagues for her bill - SF2754. She wants to put $79 million of state aid into the safe school levy that will generate $92 per pupil for districts. The funding is only for 2018-19. However, her committee on Monday is hearing several bills that would use property tax levies, both equalized and unequalized, for school safety.
The Senate would probably include the suicide prevention training for teachers and other provisions like the House.
The Senate passed the state pension bill on a 66-0 vote. The House is expected to do the same this month. Read more. As noted before, the bill funds the increase in the employers (school districts) contribution to the teacher pension plan, directing the funding through the TRA subtraction account not to the district. Most legislators at the Capitol, including top leadership, say this will get done this year.
A SEE side-by-side comparison summary of the Governor, House and Senate's policy provisions in the education policy omnibus bills is available here of the SEE website.
As always, see Brad's Blog for more detailed information on what is happening at the Capitol.
If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Schools for Equity in Education
Director of Communications and Community Outreach