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What is happening at the Capitol
On Wednesday, Governor Mark Dayton proposed emergency school aid in the form of a one-time 2% increase to the basic formula for the 2018-19 school year. He maintains the funding is badly needed to prevent budget cuts that "could result in hundreds of teachers being laid off and programs eliminated." Read more / Additional funding per district
The Senate and House E-12 education bills were passed on their respective floors this week. Read more on the House, Senate finance and Senate policy E-12 omnibus bills.
A few interesting amendments that passed include:
The five-star rating for school districts, schools and charters based primarily on the MCA test results was removed from the Senate policy bill. This provision remains only in the House bill.
The Governor proposed that the temporary $50 million funding for voluntary preK be made permanent. Knowing this is a high priory for the DFL Governor and setting the ground work for the Republican's position during negotiations with him, the House bill was amended to make this funding permanent. However, the funding is converted to early learning scholarships so parents will have the choice to take the funding from public schools and enroll their child with a home childcare provider or into private childcare centers and preschools.
School districts are currently required to test for lead in water at school buildings. Both the House and the Senate joined the Governor in mandating that if unsafe levels of lead are found in a water supply that could be consumed, schools must either remove the lead from the supply or shut down the faucets. Parents must be notified if lead is found and what the school is doing to remediate the problem.
The Senate extends the time for the new teacher licensing board to implement the new tiered-licensing system from July 1 to September 1. This heightens the confusion for teachers whose license is expiring and school districts that must have licensed teachers in the classroom.
The House bonding bill was released this week. The bill contains $25 million in school safety grants (yes, another competitive grant program) for new or enhanced facility improvements to increase safety. It sets a maximum of $500,000 per school district awarded a grant with the funding split evenly between metro and rural Minnesota. Also, the bonding bill would provide $25 million to increase the number of beds in the six regional mental health crisis centers for individuals needing immediate care. The seriousness of mental illness in students seems to be increasing. When a student comes to the point where crisis care is needed immediately, often a bed is not available, so students end up in the emergency room. If a bed is available, frequently it is hours away from the student's family and support systems. Complete list of bonding projects
The tax omnibus bills in the House and Senate passed out of their committees this week. Last week I talked about the House tax provision for a constitutional amendment that would dedicate current general fund dollars to transportation. Now, the senate wants to dedicate general fund dollars to tax relief. The Senate tax omnibus bill contains a provision triggering an automatic tax cut if the November state budget forecast projects a general fund surplus. Education depends solely on the general fund for state funding. These efforts to shrink the size of the general fund pie is a threat to future education funding. Also, the state has an interesting way of calculating the state budget forecast. The state includes inflationary increases on the revenue side. However, inflationary increases are not included on expenditures. Many times over the years, a projected surplus would be wiped away if the state gave inflationary increases to critical areas of government . . . like the education basic formula.
The Governor's school safety recommendations were introduced in a separate bill a couple weeks ago. And this week, he called upon the Legislature to pass a clean school safety bill now. (Read more) The House and Senate's school safety measures are similar to the Governor's and an area where common ground could be found. Perhaps if final negotiations fall apart, school safety funding could be salvaged and all the rest of policy and budget provisions can go away. That could very well be the best scenario for E-12 education (other than the emergency school aid proposed by the Governor). We will see. . .
As always, see Brad's Blog for more detailed information on what is happening at the Capitol.
If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Schools for Equity in Education
Director of Communications and Community Outreach