Update for April 13-17, 2009 — From Mary Cecconi, Executive Director
Today, tomorrow and next week…… Parents United is having a FRIEND-raiser and we have been ecstatic with the response. To those of you receiving this E-Update for the first time, welcome! We need a very loud voice to be amassed over the next five weeks and we need your help to do it.
Tuesday, April 21
Invest in Minnesota’s Call-in to the Capitol
Ongoing in April throughout Minnesota (new dates added)
K-12 Education Forums with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar’s staff
A complete listing of Events is always available at our website.
In this issue
What is Happening at the Capitol?
The Education Omnibus bills have been processed through the education committees in both the House and the Senate and the committees have done their work for this session. Now it is our turn! What happens in the next few weeks will be what our schools have to live with for a very long time. Please understand what is happening:
The Governor responded to the Senate’s Omnibus bill in a letter received earlier this week. This letter provides a clue to how the next weeks might play out. In his letter, the Governor states, “My ‘Pay for Progress’ and statewide expansion of Q comp…are very important, yet neither is included in your bill. Inclusion of these provisions in a final bill will be critical to the bill’s chances of being signed into law.”
As you take a look at the three proposals below, it is apparent that the best we can hope for this session is flat or close to flat funding and that is only if the hue and cry is loud enough; if we don’t speak out — the cuts WILL BE GREATER.
Alarmingly, legislators are saying they are not hearing a thing from folks concerned about our kids and their schools. This is a numbers game. If they hear more from one group to the exclusion of all others, guess who gets left behind? Parents United has always said that we advocate for education funding, but NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF the other necessary supports for our kids. We would hope that all other groups are as committed to this intention.
The Minnesota Association of School Administrators — essentially all of the superintendents in the state — received a letter this week from their executive director, asking them to “activate everyone who cares about K-12 education in support of the large issue: the appropriate and constitutionally mandated funding of our schools. We need you as an education leader to immediately take action…. Too many legislators and citizens think K-12 education can just limp along with the same or less money.” Please add your voice to that of our educational leaders — those folks who are in the trenches and know what future cuts to schools will mean for our kids.
Call, write, email — your legislators, the Governor — today and once a week for the next four weeks. Education has NOT been held harmless in the past and if we cannot even sustain our current level of funding, we will certainly be harming our kids in their future. Get MAD and get MOVING!
In this issue
As far as funding is concerned, the three bills line up this way:
The Governor’s budget adds $186 million to schools essentially by expanding Q Comp (pay for performance for teachers), enacting a system for funding schools based on student performance, and by using federal stimulus money. He pays for this increase with tax shifts (delayed payments to schools), cuts to other critical parts of the state budget, and using bonding that will need to be paid for with projected revenue. The question we’re left with is whether this balances the state budget or simply puts off the problem for another two years, placing us at risk in 2012 for another deficit.
The Senate Education Omnibus Bill, SF1328, cuts funding to schools by 7% and adds back federal stimulus money so that the final cut is 3%. They do not use shifts and they raise revenue by $2 billion. They maintain that this provides for a balanced budget and fixes a structural problem for future state budgets.
The House Education Omnibus Bill (highlights below), HF2, has schools remain at current funding levels by using tax shifts (delayed payments to schools), federal stimulus money, and raising revenue by $1.5 billion. The House contends that this provides for a balanced budget through the next two biennia. The provisions that prevailed from the House Policy bill were rolled into HF2.
When these bills are all passed off the floor, the conference committee process will begin. Members of the Conference Committee reconcile the differing bills into one that will gain support from both House and Senate — no small task this session.
Highlights of HF2, K-12 Education Omnibus Bill:
It places the Minnesota Miracle bill into law for funding in 2014.
Holds school funding at the current rate for the next two years.
Strengthens and clarifies charter school regulations.
Reduces education mandates.
Reduces mandates for home schooling.
Allows schools to begin before Labor day for the next two years.
Allows for a shared services clearinghouse.
Defines the growth model to be used in state reporting mechanisms.
Allows for a short term alternative for students unable to pass the math GRAD.
Allows for district-created site governed schools.
Creates a P-20 Education Partnership with legislative participation.
The House Early Childhood Omnibus Bill, HF 1026, was processed this week and the early childhood provisions will be divided between the Education Omnibus bill and the Health and Human Services Omnibus bill. Two provisions that created controversy were the formation of an Office of Early Learning and provisions for the Quality Rating system that is now being piloted by the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation.
Really good resources for more information are our website and Brad’s Blog; for daily updates, try the Minnesota School Boards Association lobby line, 1-800-864-6722.
In this issue
What Can I Do in the Weeks Ahead?
I can’t stress enough how important the next weeks are for education. A simple email once a week that shows you are watching and that you care can make all the difference in the world. It is imperative that we stay engaged in this process for the next few weeks. Please lift your voice with the rest of us.
In this issue
At the Website
Pencils Ready? It’s Testing Time for Minnesota’s Schools – from Minnesota Public Radio. Students across the state are packing extra #2 pencils this week, as schools start giving the MCA II standardized test, and this is the first year that the 11th-grade math test also will be tied to students’ diplomas.</p>
Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School (5th item) – Kindergarten, long a beloved institution in American culture, is in serious trouble. If the problems are not recognized and remedied, the same ills will be passed on to preschools and even to programs for children ages birth to three.
Open letter to Minnesota Senators: SF10 is the anti-stimulus – An interesting perspective on the proposed shared services bill for schools districts: “…this bill is just plain bad for business.”
Check out all the News and Hot Topics at our website!
In this issue
“Childhood has no rewind: Our children cannot go back to grade school and
get another education when times are better and we all have more to give.
When the playground is empty and the children are gone,
either we will have sacrificed for them, or we won’t.”
</wbr></wbr>—from a Parents United poster
Please join Parents United in our efforts to build the political will and community consensus necessary to provide a world class education for all Minnesota students.
Donate online — it’s quick and secure.
Thank you! You are a valued partner in our work.
We welcome your feedback on this update and our work. Please take a few minutes to let us know what’s helpful to you.
Questions? Email Mary Cecconi
Parents United for Public Schools
1667 Snelling Avenue N., St. Paul, MN 55108
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