June 1, 2007

June 1, 2007

Update for June 1, 2007 — From Mary Cecconi, Executive Director


Important  Event
June 5-6, Morris, MN

Leveraging Resources to Improve Schools and Communities
 Sponsored by the Center for Small Towns

 

The 2007 E-12 Education Omnibus Bill is signed and four provisions vetoed.

Governor Pawlenty signed the E-12 Omnibus Bill on May 30, but line-item vetoed four provisions. In a press release accompanying his veto he added these comments about the bill:

“The Governor had proposed up to 4% per year for school funding and this bill only includes 2% and 1% increases on the general education formula.”

That is a very selective reading of the Omnibus bill and an assertion that is important to dispel. What the bill does, by reinstating the special education inflator, is correct the structural imbalance that schools have had to contend with because of its repeal in 2003.

That need to pay the state’s “unpaid bill” to schools required close to $400 million dollars. This money will be used to close the “cap gap” created by the 2003 action, as well as reinstating the inflator so that this train crash doesn’t occur again and helping school districts to once again use their general funds to pay for their intended purpose.

This correction to special education funding, added to the 2% and 1% on the formula, works out to be the same dollar figure that the Governor proposed in his initial budget. The legislature simply chose to be fiscally responsible by paying their bills. It was the honest way to fund our schools, since adding money to the formula would make it seem like schools were receiving “extra” dollars rather than those simply owed to them.

 

The four items vetoed were:

1) The $75,000 appropriation for the Legislative Commission to review and recommend changes to the school funding formula.

This is the provision that we have been calling the P.S. Minnesota provision. The intent of the commission is for legislators to review the current funding formula, using data that has been collected over the last four years, and recommend changes to their colleagues by January 2008. It’s important to note that while the Governor can veto the funding, he cannot veto the policy unless he vetoes the entire bill. So as far as we know, the legislative task force to study the school funding formula will proceed.

The letter the Governor sent to the Speaker of the House states:

“The task force will be the third such effort in the last four years. The need for another such task force is questionable.”

I beg to differ. We have yet to have a funding system that works for all of our schools, so I would argue that we need to do this and do it right. The first task force was established by the Governor in 2003 and it was not a commission of legislators. And when the task force provided their results in 2004, one of their recommendations was to continue the study. In 2005, the Senate attempted to enact that recommendation by including it in the Omnibus bill. When that did not prevail, education organizations came together in a historic fashion and paid for the necessary research, which was completed in 2006.

Now our elected officials, joined by the Commissioner of Education, can take the time outside of the heat of session to study the issue, using all of the collected data and provide structural reform to a formula that is sorely in need of fixing.

2) A $200,000 appropriation to reinstate the Independent Office of Educational Accountability.

The intent of this reinstatement was to have an independent office whose entire work would center around assessment and authentic evaluation. It would also re-evaluate the current report card system used in Minnesota and design one that would more authentically reflect a school’s performance.

Again, the letter to the Speaker from the Governor states:

“This appropriation and the duties for the Office of Educational Accountability duplicates services and duties provided by the Minnesota Department of Education.”

Again, I disagree. Minnesota is the only state in the union without a State Board of Education (repealed in 1997) or an elected Education Commissioner. In our state, the Minnesota Department of Education is headed by a politically appointed Commissioner who is therefore not an independent assessor.

3) An appropriation to help teachers pay for National Board certification.

In most states, the more teachers you have who are Nationally Board certified, the prouder you can be. Again, the comment in the letter from the Governor to the Speaker reads:

“If individual school districts determine that this certification is effective, the school districts can pay for participation in the program.”

4) An appropriation for the merger of the Hennepin County and Minneapolis library systems.

The reason listed in the letter from the Governor to the Speaker states:

“The merger decision is a local decision between the Hennepin County Board and Minneapolis City Council. Those entities should carefully consider the fiscal benefits and impact of their planned merger.”

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Questions? Email Mary Cecconi

Parents United for Public Schools
1667 Snelling Avenue N., St. Paul, MN 55108
651-999-7391
www.parentsunited.org