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.
March 1, 2019  
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Make-up days for weather cancellations?  SUPERINTENDENT ACTION ALERT !
State law specifies a minimum number of 165 days and 1,020 hours that students must be in school. With the sub-zero brutal wind chills and February's record snowfall, many districts lost a significant number of instructional days in their efforts to keep students safe. In southern Minnesota, some districts have already lost nine days and there is a lot of winter left. School districts across the state now must figure out how to make up that time and the options are limited and can be painful. Imagine adding back days that cause families to consider canceling spring break or early summer vacation plans, or having high school seniors walking during the graduation ceremony and requiring them to come back to class for a week or so to get the seat time needed for their diplomas. (Read more.)
 
It sounds like the Senate and the House education committee chairs have heard from their superintendents, are communicating with each other, and understand that fast action is needed. The Senate heard SF1743 (Nelson-R), which allows, by school board resolution, snow days to count towards the minimum number of days and hours for only the 2018-19 school year. The bill passed out of committee and is headed straight to the Senate floor for a vote soon. The House introduced HF1819 (Christensen-DFL) , which allows school districts to count three days, specifically January 29, January 30 and January 31, 2019, as regular instruction days even if schools were closed due to weather.

Action Alert for Superintendents:  I would recommend that superintendents contact their legislators, if they haven't already done so, to let legislators know their school district's unique needs regarding the snow days forgiveness bills. Cut and paste the following bill authors and key committee chairs in any emails: sen.carla.nelson@senate.mn, rep.shelly.christensen@house.mn, rep.jim.davnie@house.mn, rep.cheryl.youakim@house.mn
The disappointing February forecast        
On Thursday, the state's February forecast was released.  This is the forecast the House and Senate will base their spending bills on to balance the state's two-year budget. The state's $1.5 billion surplus in the November forecast dropped by a third to $1 billion.  (Read more.) Of course, $1 billion is still significant.  However, due to a slowing economy, the next two-year budget cycle shows a slight deficit.  Any spending such as increasing the general education basic formula or reducing the high taxpayer cost for school levies cannot be sustained going past the next two years without finding additional revenue. The responses were predictable. Governor Tim Walz and the Democrats said now is the time to invest in Minnesota priorities such as E-12 education, roads and bridges, job training, and childcare assistance even if that means increasing or extending certain taxes. The Republicans stress caution, insisting now is not the time to increase taxes. [WATCH: Gov. Tim WalzDFLRepublican reactions to forecast]
 
Various existing and new on-going revenue streams have been bantered around. The Governor has proposed extending the health access fee that generates approximately $600 million every two years. The health access fee has been in place for nearly 15 years but will sunset this December. The Governor also proposed a 20-cent gas tax increase, half of which would back fill the $300 million taken from the general fund in the last budget cycle for transportation. The DFL controlled House will probably look closely at these options. In speaking with Republican legislators, they believe there are hundreds of millions of dollars in government fraud, abuse and inefficiencies, such as the fraud found in the childcare assistance program, that could be diverted to the state's general fund. Collecting sales tax on internet purchases, and legalizing and taxing certain online gambling, have been occasionally mentioned. It will be interesting (or frustrating) to see how it all plays out.
First committee deadline  
The first committee deadline is exactly two weeks from today.  Policy bills must be heard in at least one committee to continue in the legislative process. Most bills do not travel alone but can be bundled in the final House or Senate policy omnibus bills (unlike the snow day bill, which looks like it will be fast-tracked due to the timing sensitivity).  The committee chairs determine which bills end up in the omnibus bills.  Legislators introduced approximately 300 education bills have to date.  

The pace of scheduling policy bills in committee has undoubtedly picked up.  Policy bills must have no cost to the state.  However, they frequently have a cost for schools and can quickly become unfunded mandates.  The House looked at a series of bill surrounding school safety this Thursday and Friday.  The Senate is scheduled to hear early learning bills on Monday, March 4, that include capping enrollment at current levels for voluntary preK and Pathway II early learning scholarships (scholarships that go to school districts.)  On Tuesday, March 5, the House is hearing bills that r e quire schools to screen for dyslexia and modifies the duties of the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE)'s dyslexia specialist.  You can see which bills are moving in the SEE bill summary , which indicates if a bill has been scheduled in committee, or the SEE education committees calendar .  
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
www.schoolsforequity.org