May 18, 2007

May 18, 2007

Update for May 14-18, 2007 — From Mary Cecconi, Executive Director


If this is your first update from Parents United, welcome! Please let us know if you have questions or experience any problems with your mailings from us.

 

Important  Events

Monday, May 21, 2007
Last Day of the 2007 Legislative Session

 

In This Issue

What is happening at the Capitol?

Sorry to leave you all hanging, but I have been waiting for the Education Omnibus bill to be heard in the House. It passed through the Senate on Wednesday night and there was thought that it would be brought forward in the House the same evening. That didn’t happen and now it’s officially considered in conference committee. Legislators will more than likely be at the Capitol until Monday at midnight.

As it stands today, this bill represents a compromise between the House and the Senate Education Bill. The Senate always wanted to fix the “Cap gap” (cross subsidy) created by repealing the special education inflator in 2003 and help early childhood. The House wanted to use dollars for All-Day K, expand programs and address the achievement gap. It is disappointing that that didn’t happen, but they worked within existing resources. I also believe that many legislators are as disappointed as we are.

The strength of the bill is that it pays down the cross subsidy. This action eases school budgets so that they can pay for other equally necessary programs. It also reinstates that inflator at 4.6% (as before 2003). The Minnesota Department of Education estimates that special education costs are increasing by about 4.5% annually. This appears to be a very upfront way to deal with our school’s funding deficits.

Another strong element of the bill is the addition of 2% to the per pupil formula the first year of the biennium and the funding of a variety of important programs (see below).

We also believe it is important that the bill provide for the completion of the work begun by P.S. Minnesota and establish a legislative commission to study and report back to the Legislature by Jan 15, 2008.

The greatest weakness in this bill is that it does not provide enough resources for our schools, as well as providing little for our earliest learners. You will find a great many legislators who agree with that.

But let’s be very honest about what that means. In order to fund the bill at a higher level one of two things needs to happen. Either the money comes from another part of the state budget—a part that is already trying to provide necessary programs—or we raise taxes. Parents United has always believed that funding schools on the backs of other essential services is shortsighted.

As the weekend, progresses we will see what the final outcome of this bill holds for our schools—it may look very different than it does today. Please remember that what our schools receive here will be what they have to work with for two years. The clock is ticking.

In this issue

 

A few highlights of the bill

The entire bill costs $800 million; $200 million of that is “one-time” money.

  • $387 million to fund the “cap gap” (see above)
  • 2% on the per pupil formula in the first year of the biennium,0% in the second year.
  • Kindergarten students increase weighting from .55 (of the per pupil formula) to .627
  • $20 million for the Department of Education to build a statewide testing growth model
  • $5.5 million to return ECFE to 2003 funding levels
  • $2 million for School Readiness program (early literacy)
  • $2 million for Head Start
  • $3.6 million for Adult Basic Education
  • World Language Pilot Programs grants
  • $8 million statewide for gifted and talented programs
  • $4 million to expand and enhance AP/IB and to increase availability and student access to these programs
  • $3 million for Math and Science Teacher Academies
  • Comprehensive Sexuality Education
  • $5.3 million for After School Community Learning Grants
  • School lunch increase
  • Legislative commission for school finance
  • $150 per pupil of “one time money” that can be spent on technology or deferred maintenance
  • $12 million for public libraries  

If you are interested in what the Minnesota Budget Project has to say about “What’s at Stake ,” take a look at their report.

In this issue

 

What Can I Do?

Keep those calls, emails and letters to the editor coming! Come visit on Monday when the Education Conference Committee begins meeting again!

We hear a great deal of interest in investing in our roads, bridges and transit system for the future of our state-and who can argue that? This becomes visceral the more you drive around the state and it is absolutely true.

But, schools have been the canary in the coal mine. It is so easy to see what the lack of investment has meant for our transportation system, and I will argue that class size is the pot hole of our educational system-it is something that can plainly be seen and helps us understand what the lack of investment has meant for our state.

Parents United for Public Schools has joined with multiple organizations across the E-16 spectrum—from early childhood advocates to the Minnesota State University Student Association—to ask the question, “Minnesota—Do you want a public education system that allows every child the chance to succeed?”

We need to “connect the dots.”Consider:

  • By 2014, No Child Left Behind states that all children will be proficient.
  • We are the first country that has these expectations written into law.
  • The demographic shift over the last decade determines that our state’s economic vitality will be totally reliant on our young citizens now in our E-16 system.
  • The per pupil formula, which provides the lion’s share of funding for our schools has increased on average 1.5% for the last 16 years while the Consumer Price Index shows a 3.1% annual inflation rate.
  • The special education cross subsidy will top out at $512 million this year. This is an unpaid bill from the state that local school districts need to pay.
  • If all the dollars for early childhood make it through the political process this year, we may be able to return to the early childhood funding that we had in 2003.
  • Our post secondary students have been reeling from double digit inflation tuition increases.  

In this issue

 

Questions? Email Mary Cecconi

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