A Communication for Education Advocates in SEE Districts - February 12, 2021
What is happening at the Capitol (via Zoom)?
At a press briefing on Tuesday, Governor Tim Walz said he is considering easing in-person school restrictions for students in grades 6 – 12. The Republicans' top education priority is getting students back into the classroom and activities. To that end, SF2 (Nelson-R), which leaves the decision of opening up schools to locally elected school boards, worked its way through two Senate committees and is headed to the Senate floor for debate and passage. Likewise, the House Republicans held a news conference on Thursday reiterate their priority to open schools and introduce their companion bill to SF2

Many school districts are concerned about the high cost of operating schools during the pandemic. Still, legislators hear about the millions and millions of dollars that districts received from the federal government. The first round of federal Covid aid had two components for delivering the funding to Minnesota school districts, 1) through the Title-1 poverty concentration formula (this money had to be spent by December 31, 2020) and 2) a per student component. The dual streams balanced resources to target students most at risk for falling behind and funding for all schools to provide a safe learning environment for students and staff. However, the second and largest round of federal Covid aid is directed to districts only through the Title-1 formula.
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Districts that receive little Title-1 funding will likely receive insufficient federal aid to pay for the extra costs that all districts experience to create safe learning environments and keep their schools open. Districts federal Covid aid - total / Districts federal Covid aid - Title-1 formula

Today at the SEE general membership meeting, Dr. Kim Gibbons discussed hot topics, resources, and updates from the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI) at the University of Minnesota. We know most students, but not all, are struggling academically, socially, and/or emotionally from the impact of the pandemic. Educators have the challenge to determine where each student is at and provide research-based, data-driven instruction and interventions. Check out her excellent presentation. (SEE members, I will send out the video of her presentation next week.)

Bills to Watch
  • Basic Formula: HF843 (Stephenson-DFL) was heard in the House Education Finance Committee this week. It provides a 2% increase to the basic formula for the next two years and increases the basic formula by the inflation rate annually after that. Linking the formula to inflation provides predictable funding to stabilize staffing and programming and minimize cuts. Read moreDistrict revenue run 
  • Equalization: SF626 (Chamberlain - R) increases equalization by $25 million to make voter-approved referendums more affordable for taxpayers in low- property wealth school districts. District by district property tax relief run
  • Renewal of Existing Referendums: Of the 104 referendum renewal campaigns over the past seven years, all were approved by the local voters. Yet, state law requires school districts to expend considerable effort and expense on renewal campaigns. HF292 (Fredrickson-DFL) heard in committee this week allows school boards to renew existing referendum. Read more / SEE's Testimony
  • Delay implementation of academic standards: SF438 as amended (Chamberlain-R) would delay for two years any changes to academic standards. All state academic standards are on rotation for review and revisions every ten years. The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) released the first draft of the revised social studies standards. Superintendent David Law from SEE member district Anoka-Hennepin testified in favor of the bill. Implementation of revised standards is a two-year cycle within a district that takes time and expense to develop and adopt a new curriculum and train teachers on the changes. Over the next two years, teachers and staff need to focus on their students to bounce back from their disrupted education. The revised social studies standards are also controversial. MDE claims for a well-rounded study of history, Minnesota's students need to learn more about the contributions and experiences of people of color and the Indigenous people. Republicans voice concerns that the standards instill an ideology.  Perhaps this is a good time to save that argument until 2023 and focus on our students now. 

Here is additional information on Governor Tim Walz's 2-year education budget proposalSEE's Walz education budget provisions summary / District by district revenue increase run (Note: Typically amounts are given per adjusted pupil unit (APU). The Governor's budget is per average daily membership (ADM), which results in higher revenue amounts per pupil than typically calculated.)

Legislative leaders announced 2021 committee deadlines. The policy omnibus bills must be completed by March 19, and the finance omnibus bills finished by April 9. Omnibus bills are a collection of single bills. Most bills heard in the committee are laid on the table for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill.

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