Dates to Remember
January and February: “Legislators in our Schools Tours”
March 1, 2006: Legislative Session Begins
The following items have links that you may wish to investigate. The fact that they are in this update is not an endorsement of them or their content. It is simply our way of letting you see information that we have found regarding issues surrounding our public schools. We try only to use credible source links.
The 65% solution
The conversation all over the news seems to be a movement towards the 65% solution, a “solution” that mandates schools to place 65% of all dollars they receive into the classroom. Unfortunately schools cannot count transportation, lunch, heat or lights toward that goal. This solution is law in Texas, in statute as a suggestion in Kansas and Louisiana, and it is on the ballot in Missouri in an ongoing effort to govern by resolutions and initiatives. The group pushing this initiative is Washington, D.C.-based First Class Education. This “solution” was introduced last legislative session and I have no doubt will be brought back in the 2006 session. Standard and Poor’s has done an analysis of the measure. Without taking a stance, they use their unique position of having data from all across the United States to do a just analysis:
“Of the nine states where the 65 Percent Solution is being considered and which had sufficient data to analyze, Minnesota had the greatest percentage of districts that already allocate at least 65 percent of their operating budgets to instruction. In that state, Standard & Poor’s noticed a wide range of performance in the districts that met the 65 percent threshold; no significant positive correlation was found between spending 65 percent of a district’s operating budget on instruction, and academic proficiency rates. In fact, Standard & Poor’s found no significant correlation between spending any minimum percentage of a district’s budget on instruction and state reading and math proficiency rates.” –Standard and Poor’s. For the complete analysis and study results visit http://www.schoolmatters.com/
Of property taxes, levies and Paul Dorr
Another interesting trend in the news has been the coverage of what is pushing local property taxes. It is imperative that voters in Minnesota understand the relief that schools received–4% in 2005 and 4% in 2006 on the per pupil formula–came not just from state coffers, but from a mechanism where the state made it possible for school boards to raise local property taxes. When the deal for schools was struck this last July, all sorts of people were taking credit for increasing needed dollars to schools—is this determined effort to help our schools waning in the light of day?
Another issue we need to watch is the use of professional levy opponents. Paul Dorr, an Iowa native, has been hired in Minnesota to defeat local levy questions. As more and more of our school needs are supposed to be met by passage of local levies, it would seem prudent for us to know about these hired professionals. You can find out more about Mr. Dorr through these links.
What Can I do?
We are asking for parents to bring legislators into their local schools during the months of January and February. The legislative session does not begin until March 1—so legislators and candidates will have more time to spend in their home districts. This is the fourth year that we are encouraging parents to do this. You will receive information and help through future updates.
This is an election year and all of our elected officials and candidates will be interested in making connections. That makes for a great opportunity for decision makers to see what is really happening in our schools and for you to make your concerns known in a very timely manner.
If your legislator or a candidate says they know everything there is to know about the schools in your district, ask them to bring a colleague from another district to tour your school and ask that they return the favor, by touring the colleague’s school.
In order for elected officials to make a difference, they need to build coalitions with other members of the House and the Senate. You can help them do this. Our public schools are a statewide responsibility and need statewide attention. We cannot afford anymore fractionalizing by district.
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