A Communication for Education Advocates in SEE Districts - July 17, 2020
What is happening at the Capitol?
Note: You will find the action alert below.
The legislature began its second special session on Monday. Every month, if Governor Tim Walz seeks to extend his peacetime emergency powers, the legislature must have the opportunity to vote to rescind those powers. The GOP majority in the Senate voted to repeal but the DFL-controlled House stands by the Governor. Forty-nine of the 50 governors in the U.S., both Republicans, and Democrats, retain their emergency powers. During a pandemic, states need to respond quickly to changing conditions, as we have seen in Texas, Florida, and Arizona, and the legislative process is far from speedy. 
Most all the legislators and the Governor want to get a bonding bill done. Not only is it essential to provide and maintain needed infrastructure across the state, but the bill also acts as an economic stimulus package that will put people back to work. The Governor, Senate Majority Leader, and the Speaker of the House reached an agreement on a $1.8 million bonding\taxes bill . However, the bonding bill requires a 60% vote to pass,
which requires votes from the minority parties. Currently, the minority parties are holding votes back. The Republican minority in the House is demanding limitations on the Governor's emergency powers, and the Senate minority party wants police reform. 

Regardless, the Governor is optimistic that the House and Senate will pass the bonding bill and complete other business on Monday or Tuesday.  SEE strongly supports the bonding bill as it contains $17 million in increased referendum equalization!  Added to the $10 million provided in the 2019 Legislative Session, the nearly $30 million will reduce the high cost of voter-approved referendum in low-property wealth districts. Taxpayers in districts with a voter-approved referendum would see immediate property tax relief. Just as important, this investment makes the school funding system more equitable.  The state will most likely have a budget deficit during the next few years. As the state cannot deficit spend like the federal government, the next legislature faces tough funding decisions during the 2021 Legislative Session, which is a critical funding year. School districts may need to ask their voters to support a referendum to prevent deep cuts. The new referendum equalization ($17 million depends on passing the bonding bill next week) reduces the percentage of the total referendum revenue that the local taxpayers pay by increasing the percent the state will reimburse. See how this legislation impacts your district

SEE appreciates the hard work done by the tax chairs, Senator Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes) and Representative Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth) to get the equalization included both last year and this year. Sen. Chamberlain reached out to me last summer. He intended to advocate for more equalization in the current session and planned to make a short video on the need to do so. He asked if I would be a part of the video. Here is Sen. Chamberlain's " Let's Talk About School Funding " video. We also want to recognize Chair Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) of the Senate Education Finance and Policy Committee and Representative John Huot (DFL-Rosemount) for carrying another SEE equalization bill.
On a different note, the Governor will announce on July 27 th if schools will fully open in the fall, continue distance learning, or begin a hybrid of the two models. The pressure is building across the state and indeed from the President for in-school learning. Most students do much better in school, especially struggling students. However, the cost to safely open the schools and keep students and staff well is expensive.  For example, schools might need more teachers and custodians. Schools will have to procure scarce personal protection equipment (PPE) and disinfectant. An 83-student capacity bus can only carry 20 students with social distancing. Several cost estimates for the increased costs range from $116 - $245 billion nationally. States and education advocates believe that the federal government must include more funding for schools to operate through the pandemic as getting students back to school is critical for rebooting the economy and necessary for working parents. Congressional Democrats are considering an additional $3 billion coronavirus aid package. Although U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not interested in such a large expenditure, he has said education funding is a priority in the Senate. Perhaps Minnesota schools will see some relief from Washington D.C. Read more .  
****Action Alert**** Now is the time to act if your school district will see property tax relief or a decrease in the levy % from the bonding bill. Contact your local legislators to express appreciation that referendum equalization is included and urge them to support  HF3 – the bonding bill . Be sure to copy Sen. Chamberlain and Rep Marquart (cut and paste: sen.roger.chamberlain@senate.mn , rep.paul.marquart@house.mn ) as SEE wants to acknowledge our legislative champions. The message can be very brief such as:

Dear Rep. [fill in the last name] and Sen. [fill in the last name],

I am grateful that referendum equalization is in the bonding bill, which makes school levies more affordable in low-property wealth school districts. The high taxpayer cost for voter-approved referendum in the [fill in the name of your school district] diminishes the educational opportunities that our students experience . Please make the school funding system more equitable for our children and community by supporting the bonding bill. I appreciate all the hard work you do on our behalf.

Thank you!

Your name
Your home address

This is just an example to get you started. Please add and edit to personalize the message. It is not important exactly what words you use; it is just important that you send an email. You can find the contact information for your state Senator and Representative here .
If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me.


Deb Griffiths
Schools for Equity in Education (SEE)
Director of Communications and Community Outreach