A Communication for Education Advocates in SEE Districts - January 29, 2021
What is happening at the Capitol (via Zoom)?
Governor's Education Budget Proposal
As per the law, Governor Tim Walz released his 2-year budget proposal. He plans to raise significant revenue through several tax streams, including high-income earners, capital gains over $1 million, and large corporations. The income tax creates a fifth tier, where all income above this level will be taxed at a 1.5% increase. The income tiers are $1 million for families and $500,000 for individuals, comprising 0.7% of Minnesota income tax returns. 

The Republican leaders responded with an emphatic “no” to new taxes, reiterating that the deficit can be balanced using the reserve (the state’s rainy-day fund) and 5% cuts across all the state agencies. After the February forecast, the House and Senate craft their budget proposals. At this point, Minnesotans can compare and decide what direction they would like to see the state move toward and weigh in by contacting their legislators and state leaders.  Read more.

As the state has a forecasted deficit over the next two years, the new tax revenue allows the Governor to invest in his priorities. For PreK-12 education, he adds about $830 million in new spending. 

Following are a few highlights from his budget.
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  • Increase the basic formula by 1% in 2021-22 and 2.5% in 2022-23 school years. (on-going funding)
  • Link English Learner (EL) Aid, Local Option Revenue (LOR), Extended Time Revenue, and American Indian Education Aid to increases in the basic formula.
  • Increase and index equalization to the basic formula for voter-approved referendums, Local Option Revenue, and debt service bonds. A significant increase of $95 million per year.
  • Hold the special education cross subsidy steady at the 2018-19 level.
  • Provide summer 2021 programming that meets the academic, social, and emotional needs of students. (Note: Districts need to know now if this funding is real to prepare. Fifty percent of the funding comes from existing federal Covid-19 aid, which the Governor could release immediately. It appears politics is in play here.)
  • Make permanent 4,000 existing PreK spots, which would lose funding at the end of this school year.
  • Supports for school-aged childcare, before/after/summer school wrap-around services, and Early Learning Scholarships.
  • Reduce the EL cross subsidy.
  • Reimbursement for partial lost revenue due to student enrollment loss during the pandemic of $1,346 per pupil.
  • See all provisions in the SEE Governor’s Education Budget Summary.
  • See much more details on this SEE Education Legislation webpage.

Other News
The Senate education committee heard HF244(Chamberlain-R) that establishes a $1 million annual pilot program for teachers to train in LETRS, making them literacy experts who have the tools to increase reading skills in all students. On average, only about 55% of 3rd graders are proficient in reading, which has been constant for decades. We must do better! Read more.

The House is moving HF217(Hassan-DFL) – "The Teacher of Color Act 2021", a package of initiatives to increase Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) teachers. Thirty-five percent of Minnesota’s students are BIPOC. Only 5.6 percent of our teachers are BIPOC. Read more.

Check out Brad’s Blog for more details on these two bills.

The Senate education committee hosted a conversation with Minneapolis-based LiveMore ScreenLess advocates to discuss the negative impacts of young people overusing technology. The co-founders are veteran educators and stress the “intentional, balanced use of technology and the prevention of misuse or overuse.” They are involved with a documentary called “Tethered,” where students and teachers from Faribault High School provided input for the film. Read more. LiveMore ScreenLess also provides research and solutions in this document to the committee and on their website

The Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) released its bi-annual Supply & Demand of Teachers in Minnesota Report. A few key findings that are not new but of deep concern include:
  • Most teachers in public school positions hold a Tier 3 or Tier 4 license. However, half of Minnesota’s teachers who have these licenses are not teaching in public schools.
  • One in three new teachers leaves the teaching field within the first five years.
  • Seventy percent of districts reported being significantly impacted by the teacher shortage and 88 percent by the substitute teacher shortage.
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
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