May 19, 2010

May 19, 2010

Update for Wednesday, May 19

In This Issue
At the Capitol
A Look Ahead
At the Website

“Everybody’s for democracy in principle.
It’s only in practice that the thing gives rise to stiff objections.”

— Meg Greenfield 

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At the Capitol

The story: The conversation about not having an education bill is interesting since both the House and the Senate education committees produced omnibus bills and we waited for the conference committee process to begin. The House passed its version, but the Senate waited until the last weekend to bring it to the floor. So, after waiting weeks to see conferees appointed, HF2072 raced through the conference committee process at 5:45a.m. Sunday, May 16, and passed out of the House 77-53 late in the afternoon. The Senate DID NOT concur with the conference committee report and so at 9 p.m. Sunday they voted to send it back to the conferees. That was the end of the bill.

Why the objection to HF2072? In floor debate, the provision that drew most fire was one allowing locally elected school board members to renew a voter-approved levy referendum without further voter approval. These levies were ALL legally voted on and you may remember an amendment had been added that allowed for revocation by voters.

Background: Prior to 1990, when voters approved local levies the vote gave local school boards the ongoing authority to levy the approved amount. In the mid-1990s, with the cry that by the mid 2000s “surely there would be a better way to fund schools,” the legislature required that all voter-approved levies have a finite end, so any outstanding levy passed prior to 1990 had to sunset by 2007 and the renewal roller coaster began. Hmmmm……

Cities and counties have the authority to levy without voter approval – but not school boards. That means in Minnesota, we can build a prison or a municipal building without ever going to the voters, but to get papers and crayons for our kindergarteners – Nope!? As one legislator put it, “Why is it that the only thing we can vote against is our children?”

The levy renewal provision in HF2072 allowed school boards who had an expiring voter-approved levy between now and 2014 to renew it at the same level. Rep Greiling was eloquent in expressing her disappointment that this was the method we have been reduced to. But please, please understand that without the legislature and the governor taking on the very real and necessary task of determining how to fairly, adequately fund our schools we will see more and more of these kinds of provisions.

Back to the story: The legislature adjourned at 11:59 p.m. on May 16 and when they convened a special session at 12:01 a.m. on May 17, HF1 was passed and the budget balancing act was in place. Last year’s un-allotment called for late payments to schools: schools would receive 73% of their entitlement (that’s the legal term for what is owed them) in one year and 27% the next year. This NEW budget balancing agreement has those payments shifted to 70% one year and 30% the next.

With the special session underway, Rep. Greiling tried valiantly in the House to get a K-12 Omnibus bill passed (a stripped down version) but to do so required a two-thirds majority vote to suspend rules – and that wasn’t in the cards. Meanwhile, the Senate passed the K-12 Omnibus bill on a 66-0 vote. Seeing as we are in an election season, look forward to a ton of spin about this session.

Many of the policy provisions in bills this session were in hopes of qualifying for the federal Race to the Top grant. It will be good to see if these policy provisions come forward again in hopes of increasing student achievement.
 
So what did pass?

  • Physical education is now a state standard (passed in a heath bill).
  • The 1980s provision that “required” the state to borrow from school fund balances before going to outside lenders has been changed to permissive language.
  • And, of course, the payment shifts. According to the Executive Director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators, “We’re paying for this shift with 400 teachers a year,” — May 17, Star Tribune

In this issue

 

A Look Ahead
Stay tuned even though the session is over. We will continue sending updates about issues critical to public schools.

At the Website

Find these articles — and much, much more — at our News & Events page!

In this issue

Mary Cecconi, Executive Director (mary@parentsunited.org)
Parents United for Public Schools
1667 Snelling Avenue N., St. Paul, MN 55108
651-999-7391
www.parentsunited.org

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