April 22, 2016 Update: The Waiting Game

Since the announcement that Parents United will be closing its doors on June 30, 2016, the outpouring of support and gratitude has been a bit overwhelming. We thank you all for your kind words! We are so proud of the work we have been able to do for Minnesota families because of those who supported the work. The story of Parents United is a great story of parents coming together to assure excellence in their schools.

On Saturday, June 4th 10:30 a.m. we will host our final Legislative Wrap Up at the Roseville Library Community Room. Please join us as it will be a time to wrap-up the session and Parents United!

At the Capitol

Three bills in the House

Now that both bodies have education bills we would expect they would be negotiated into one bill through the conference committee process. (Take a closer look at the spending provisions put forth in the bills in this nice side-by-side created by AMSD). However, it won’t be that simple – this is shaping up to be a very complicated year.

The Senate has an E-12 policy bill, and their education funding provisions are rolled into one large supplemental budget bill. This is a usual course for a non-budget year. The House has decided to run with three topic-aligned omnibus bills—the education bill will have both policy and funding provisions from early childhood through higher education. We have no idea how this will be conferenced!

The larger issue

The complication continues because, as always, the real issue is money—and rhetoric. The second year of the biennium is traditionally a year where the state issues bonds to provide funding for infrastructure improvements. It is usually seen as a jobs bill, since projects require workers.

The Governor and Senate leadership are looking for a bonding bill in the $1.4 billion range. However, the GOP-led House believes we need to “live within our means” and pay for transportation, taxes and bonding by using the reported $900 million surplus. One can see the collision course we’re on since a bonding bill must have a 3/5ths majority to pass and Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, the critically important chair of the House Tax Committee says: “There won’t be a bonding bill if there’s not a tax bill and a transportation bill.”

The rhetoric around this money issue is interesting. ONE MORE TIME: Minnesota factors inflation when determining revenues but does not factor inflation when determining expenditures. Is a surplus a surplus if you haven’t subtracted your expenses? This recognition of inflation only when projecting revenue was a deal struck 16 years ago between both majority parties.

So it looks like everything will be at a standstill until this larger issue is resolved, or everything will just stop. It’s not a budget year, so legislators can step away from the table without passing a single bill, go home and begin their reelection campaigns. If that happens, expect the finger-pointing to be vigorous.

As we mentioned in our Legislative kick-off, this session is all about grabbing, or retaining the majority of seats in your respective body AND turning out the vote for your presidential nominee. One can always count on angry voters to vote. This is a high stakes political game.

This MinnPost article is a nice explanation of the current state of the session.

Student Discipline

We have heard much concern about student behavior and discipline in our public schools throughout this session, and both Senate and House omnibus education bills include provisions for Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS). It is a good time to Learn more about PBIS in this story from MPR.

A Look Ahead

Opportunity for Community Development

Minnesota Humanities Center is hosting its Increase Engagement Through Absent Narratives workshops this spring and summer. We know first hand that these workshops are wonderful tools for thinking about engaging community, with applications to many aspects of work and community life. They have one Wednesday, May 18 and one this summer on Friday, July 29, and there is still room in both.

Worth a Second Look

Your school districts are heading into the budgeting process for next year. Are you seeing budget cuts? You’re not alone. Here’s a glimpse at projected revenue reductions from a survey that AMSD (Assoc of Metro School Districts) did of its member districts. We haven’t seen a chart (yet) for outstate school budgets, but expect the same trend. NPR is doing a big series on school funding. This map of spending per student, nationally, is very interesting.

What is Parents United’s agenda? Our agenda is simple: we don’t speak for parents, but work to provide credible, timely information about education policy and the law-making process so parents can speak for themselves. Parents United is a translator of complex terms and policy implications, as well as a navigator for a legislative process often oblique to the public.