April 11, 2008

April 11, 2008

Update for April 7-11, 2008 — From Mary Cecconi, Executive Director


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In This Issue

At the Capitol
Next Week at the Capitol
Bills to Watch
Hot Topics

 

What is happening at the Capitol?

On Monday April 7, we had 140 parent leaders from districts around the state sharing information, networking and hopefully gaining support and inspiration for the work of advocacy. We missed our friends north of Brainerd who could not join us because they were snowed in.

During our afternoon session at the Capitol, 60 folks joined in a conversation with Rep. Greiling, Chair of K12 Finance Division and chief author or the New Minnesota Miracle bill. From the Senate, we were visited by Education Chair Sen. Chuck Wiger, lead Republican on education Sen. Gen Olson, and Sen. Kathy Saltzman. Although he was scheduled to join us, our chair for Senate E-12 Education Budget Division was snowed in-in Thief River Falls!

At the same time we were gathering, across town Rep. Greiling and 40 legislators were holding a press conference on the new bill. Not having been able to attend, I thought you might like to hear from Brad Lundell of Schools for Equity in Education (SEE), one of our partners and a mentor of mine. Brad has been around the Capitol for years and can speak with great authority. Other comments from Brad can be found under “Brad’s Blog” at SEE.

The Day Has Finally Come. With a press conference today, the Legislature has stepped forward with the introduction of an earth-shattering education funding reform bill. Billed as “The Second Minnesota Miracle,” the bill is based on the work of PS Minnesota and seeks to add $1.75 billion annually to the education funding formula. This is obviously a significant chunk of change and this won’t happen overnight (or over many nights), but it is great to see this proposal introduced, even though it is late in the legislative session.

The press conference was attended by nearly 40 legislators, which is really saying something because both houses were in session. Legislators of all four caucuses were in attendance, although the flavor of the press conference tasted a bit more DFL than Republican. Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher led off the press conference, hailing the measure as needed to make certain that every Minnesota elementary and secondary student receives the funding they need to make their education both meaningful and applicable toward the next life step, whether that be a 4-year college, 2-year college or technical college, or straight into the workforce. Speaker Kelliher seemed genuinely excited about the injection of this bill into the discussion of how we can keep the Minnesota economy competitive, both now and in the future.

Kudos should go out to all of the members of the task force that took the PS Minnesota recommendations and molded them into the bill that was introduced today. Senator Terry Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka), who chaired the Senate delegation to the Education Finance Task Force, provided the Senate’s perspective on the process used to develop this bill. While the House has been more aggressive in promoting the cause of comprehensive education funding reform, once the Senate named its task force membership, they showed its share of enthusiasm in joining the House’s lead. In order to achieve this massive (putting it mildly) goal, both Houses of the Legislature and the Administration are going to have to fully embrace the notion that the current system must be fixed and funded. And this doesn’t pertain to just this Governor and set of legislators. This is going to involve an on-going effort that will most likely take two or three bienniums to fully implement, meaning it will require support in both the short and long terms.

Again, I don’t think enough can be said about the leadership of Representative Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) in keeping this concept alive and kicking when it looked like the minister was on the way to perform the last rites and the undertaker was on the telephone. Representative Greiling kept on pushing and kept the discussion going.

Text of the bill (HF 4178/SF 3828) can be found at this link.

On Thursday, April 10, the New Minnesota Miracle bill received its first hearing in the House K12 Education Finance Committee. Five parents from five different districts came to testify in favor of this bill. My gratitude to Anne Maple, Northfield; Missy McDonald, Roseville; Tina Grauf, Elk River; Kathy Buchholz, school board member and parent, Stillwater; and Craig Roen, St. Paul parent and Parents United board member. Thank you all for speaking on behalf of the rest of us.

In this issue

 

A Look Ahead at the Week of April 14

Committee meetings and bills scheduled to be heard change frequently! Be sure to check the daily schedule of hearings and agendas.

The coming week is yet undisclosed. As often happens at this time of year, both the House and the Senate are slogging through bills on the floor in their respective bodies. In the coming weeks these bills will be compiled, conferenced and re-referred to the floor for final passage.

I have yet to see an appointment of conferees for the House/Senate Education policy bills. When I know—you’ll know!

In this issue

 

Bills to Watch

The New Minnesota Miracle Bill—heard

HF 4178 is an elegantly crafted bill whose intent is to reform the existing education funding system. It is “scalable”—meaning as much money as the legislature is able to raise will pass through a system of funding that works to rationally account for the real costs of meeting the needs of individual students and individual districts.

This version of the bill increases the per pupil formula from $5124 to $7500 and the total cost is 1.8 billion annually; this is right in line with the figure arrived at through the John Myers study of 2006. Scalable means if the governor and elected leaders choose to place only $200 million into the system that per pupil formula would be adjusted downward to meet that dollar figure. The elegant structure of the bill allows for a transition to raise revenue while using a “fixed” formula. A few other highlights of the bill are:

  • All children are counted as 1
  • Provides for voluntary all day Kindergarten
  • Provides for greater extended time
  • Lifts the cap on English Language Learners
  • Allows all districts to levy for deferred maintenance
  • Removes statewide cap on special education revenue
  • Increase sparsity aid
  • Increase equalization
  • Places a location equity index into the formula
  • Switches out $500 of local levy with state aid
  • Adds transportation money
  • Declining enrollment aid
  • Specifies that a certain percentage of general education revenue be set aside:
    • 1% for gifted and talented services
    • 1.5% for innovation and researched based programs to increase learning
    • 0.5 for additional career and technical programming
    • operating capital, staff development and basic skills revenue must be set aside ias is required by current law

Coming Soon to a Hearing Near You!
Interested in what this bill might mean for your schools? This bill will be taken out to regional meetings throughout the state when the legislative session ends in May. Parents United will make it a priority to alert you to when the bill will be heard in your region and I am planning on being at all of them, to meet with parents before or after and answer questions about how we get this bill done. The first Minnesota Miracle took from 1967 to 1971 to pass—through two elections, including a gubenatorial election.

I must add my gratitude to Rep. Greiling, as well as all of the hard-working task force members, for their tenacity in getting this bill where it is today.

In this issue

 

Hot Topics

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

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