All public school children must have equal access to a high quality education regardless of where they live in Minnesota.




Legislative Update  
A c ommunication for education advocates in SEE districts.
April 7, 2017  
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Check out Brad's Blog for detailed information on legislative activity
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What is happening at the Capitol
It was a flurry of activity this week as the budget omnibus bills were brought to the House and Senate floors.  The education and tax bills passed primarily on party-line votes.  A few Democrats voted in favor of the bills.  Generally, this is so they are can be selected on the conference committee.  Around five members from both the House and the Senate will be chosen to negotiate the House and Senate omnibus bills into a single omnibus bill that will be sent to the governor.  To be eligible to serve on the conference committee for a particular area of government, a legislator must have voted yes on that omnibus bill.  You can find more information on the bills on the SEE education legislation website page and the SEE education budget side-by-side comparison.

It was during the Senate floor discussion on the tax omnibus bill that things got interesting.  Contentious debate focused on the provision that would provide $35 million in tax credits for donations to newly established foundations that would distribute the donations as scholarships for children that live in poverty.  The scholarships can be used for private schools including religious schools. The Republicans see this as an important choice for parents of at-risk children to use when their local public school are not working for them.  The Democrats see this as a disguised voucher program that takes money away from public schools.  The Democrats offered various amendments to move this money back to the public schools which the Republicans voted down.  One amendment would take $29 million for the tax credits and put it towards referendum equalization to lower the taxpayer cost in low-property wealth districts.  A republican Senator amended the amendment to take the money from the Minneapolis local government aid instead.  The republican majority supported both amendments and this referendum equalization is in the bill The Senate already had $16 million in debt service equalization which is to lower the cost for voter-approved building bonds.    Having $45 million of equalization in the Senate tax omnibus bill going into conference committee is not a bad position. 

The teacher licensure bill was passed on the House floor this week.  This MinnPost article does a good job explaining the proposal and the differences between the House and Senate versions.

As always, check out Brad's Blog for more detailed information on what is happening at the Capitol.
The Governor turns on the heat
The Governor released funding comparisons to contrast how the House, Senate and Governor's plans would impact local school districts.  School districts do much better under the Governor proposal as he spends $710 million on education versus $300 million in the Senate and $271 million in the House.
What's next?
The Legislature is on break for 10 days and will return on April 18.  The conference committee members will be picked and they will begin their work.  They can only address policy provisions until the House and Senate leadership negotiate budget targets for each committee.  It's likely the Governor will veto all the omnibus bills.  That will leave several weeks for the Governor and Legislative leadership to reach a budget agreement and get the bills done before the end of session on May 22. We will see if this is how it plays out. 
If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me. 

Regards,

Deb Griffiths
Schools for Equity in Education
Director of Communications and Community Outreach
612-309-0089