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.
February 8, 2019  
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What is happening at the Capitol
On Tuesday, the House Education Policy Committee focused on the topic of the special education process and challenges.  Minnesota Administrators of Special Education (MASE) advocate for a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS), which is a general education model that provides individualized supports for struggling students. Minnesota school districts with more resources can provide an array of services to address a student's academic and behavioral issues which, many times, can prevent the student from entering the special education process. But many school districts rely on the special education program to help at-risk students. Special education teachers want to teach.  Unfortunately, these teachers end up spending most of their time producing a mountain of mandated paperwork, which most feel is redundant, complex and does little to improve the quality of instruction for students.  The best explanation of the process I've seen was given in a presentation by MASE through A Tale of Two Students - People, Paperwork, and Process, which describes what it really looks like in the trenches.  You can listen to the presentation  (which begins at 36:47) and follow along in the presentation. Presentation / Presentation in PowerPoint  (with detailed notes) . MASE stated that Minnesota is at a crisis point in encouraging new and keeping current special education teacher in the profession due to the paperwork burden. Senator Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake) introduced a bill - SF992 - that would reduce the paperwork and streamline the process as advocated by MASE. Other bills are also in the pipeline.

On Wednesday, the House Education Finance Committee delved into English language (EL) learners and EL funding. The meeting began with a presentation from the state's demographic center. The presentation looked more closely at the immigrant population. The current population of foreign-born Minnesotans is 448,397, which is 8% of the total state's population. The state economist views the foreign-born population as an asset because Minnesota is experiencing a workforce shortage. The extent that immigrants can participate in the workforce is highly dependent on achieving proficiency in the English language. Minnesota's schools are working hard to help their EL students master English. However, like the special education cross-subsidy, the unfunded cost of providing EL services is rapidly growing and is over $100 million a year, a significant financial challenge for districts serving large immigrant communities. Minnesota has seen an increase of nearly 50% of EL learners over the last eleven years. The growth is happening around the state in both urban, suburban and rural. The bill - HF448 - Her (DFL-St. Paul) was heard in committee. It would significantly increase EL funding by approximately $84 million per year, or $168 million over the budget biennium. Quite the price tag considering it would consume over one-third of the on-going budget surplus, leaving very little for other areas of government or even for a $250 per pupil increase to the basic formula. (HF448 Funding Increase in EL Funding by District.) However, Chair Jim Davnie (DFL-Minneapolis) has stated this is a high priority for him so I would expect an increase in EL funding at some level in the final House education finance bill. (Unfunded Cost of EL Services by District) This data is from FY17. I should get FY18 data, which is the most recent information, next week from the Minnesota Department of Education. If you are interested, keep checking the link until the FY18 data appears.  

As always, check out Brad's Blog for more detailed information on what is happening at the Capitol.  
Equalization - Property Tax Relief for School Levies
One of SEE's top priorities is to make the taxpayer cost for a levy dollar uniform across the state, so all school districts have the same shot at passing levies to support their students. (Read more.) Senator Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes), and also the Chair of the Tax Committee, has introduced SF670, which would spend about $30 million annually to reduce the cost on voter- and board-approved operating referendums. He has launched a new concept where he caps the total percentage of a school district's tax base that can be spent on operating referendums. If the taxpayer cost for the current referendum is more the newly defined caps, the state will pay the difference, providing property tax relief to the local taxpayer. (Property tax relief by district for SF670.) SEE Executive Director Brad Lundell is also working on two bills, one for operating referendum and the other is for debt service on building bonds. The proposals are drafted, and authors in the House and Senate have been found. The bills should be introduced next week. The bills adjust the parameters of the current formula to provide the property tax relief. (See the property tax relief for these bills.) The SEE bills will be heard on Friday, February 22 when the House Education Finance Committee takes their show on the road to Windom, MN to hold a committee meeting at the Windom Middle School.  
If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me. 


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