First comes revenue, then comes spending – Update for May 3, 2013

This week both the House and Senate completed work on their respective omnibus tax bills. They differ in the amount of revenue raised as well as the mechanisms for raising the revenue. A global bargain between the Senate Majority Leader, Speaker of the House and Governor needs to be negotiated before the finance work of the E-12 conference committee can be completed.

This process might happen overnight…over the weekend…or over the course of a week. My guess is the E-12 conference committee won’t be convening until those conversations are a bit further down the road. We do know our conferees:

  • Senate –  Wiger, Torres Ray, Stumpf, Johnson A., Dahle
  • House – Marquart, Mariani, Morgan, Brynaert, Urdahl

Things happen very quickly at this time of session. Conference committee meetings and floor sessions are often at the “call of the chair” and so timing is in flux. If you are trying to follow the happenings, check our Facebook page, follow me on Twitter, or text me at 651-214-6565. It really is the best way to keep track!

Hangout with the Vice-Chair of Senate E-12 policy

Here’s an opportunity for direct access to the conference committee from the comfort of your own home! Senator Dahle, the Vice-Chair of Senate E-12 policy and a member of the education finance committee, will have a Google hangout on MONDAY, May 6 at 4:00 PM. If this sounds like something you’d like to participate in, here’s your chance. Space is limited. Click here for your chance to join the hangout

“You are invited to take part in a conversation with Senator Kevin Dahle in a Google+ Hangout to discuss the Minnesota Senate’s plan to reinvest in Minnesota schools and to drastically enhance education opportunities for each and every Minnesota child. This video discussion is the only place where you can hear the facts on what is happening in St. Paul, not just the talking points.” – An invitation from Brad Shapiro, Senate Majority Media, 651-296-3521, Twitter: @Shapiro_BA.

The Dream Act may be a reality

Late afternoon Wednesday the Senate passed the “Path to Prosperity Act,” also known in Minnesota as the Dream Act. If signed into law, students who are undocumented, but have attended high school in Minnesota for at least three years, will qualify for in-state tuition and grants for post-secondary education. This bill has been attempted for a decade and its passage is historic. As bill author Sen. Pappas said, “This is really important for a small number of students but it’s very symbolic for a lot of immigrant students who dare to dream that they too can get a college education.” The fate of this act will be in the conference committee process.

Parents United 11th Annual Parent Leadership Summit

This annual event never fails to bring a great group together and this year we’re looking forward to a lively conversation about renovating our school system. Until May 23 we will share thought-provoking articles to stimulate our thinking. For the over-achievers in the group, think of it as a Summit Reading list! And don’t forget to register to join us on May 23!

Summit reading list

For video fans

Parents in Action – Levy freeze in Omnibus Tax bill amended

In last week’s update, “A provision with serious implications” highlighted a provision in the Tax Omnibus bill that would freeze a school district’s ability to hold anything but a renewal levy for one year. Several concerned parents and school board members contacted their elected officials and the tax bill was amended on the Senate floor. The provision now reads:

(b) Paragraph (a) shall not apply to a district if, prior to April 22, 2013, the board adopted a resolution to conduct a referendum in 2013.

Translation: If a local school board has adopted a resolution to conduct a levy referendum this November BEFORE April 22, 2013, they are exempted from this levy freeze.

I expect there are many districts that have yet to hear about this freeze and we won’t know if it will happen until the bills have been conferenced.

Another view from our good friends at Schools for Equity in Education (Brad’s Blog): “While Senator Housley’s amendment only exempts districts whose boards have already passed a resolution to put the question on the ballot, I believe the sentiment will be to allow more districts to seek voter-approved levies this fall once all the dust settles. Whether that comes in the form of no freeze or a modified freeze remains to be seen, but I urge any district thinking of going out this fall to put their efforts on the rails and make certain that their legislators know of their district’s intention.”

How we help!

Parents United hosts conference calls to share intel and network those involved in this work. Join us at 12:30 each Monday until the very end of session. Technology limits how many folks we can have on the call at any one time – so join early! Conference Call Instructions for Participants:

  • Call 952-230-4464
  • Enter conference ID number: 200060#
  • Select Option 2
  • There will be silence until others join.
  • To minimize background noise, once a meeting begins please mute your phone (see below). (Just remember to un-mute when you have something to say.)
  • To mute your part of the call, press *, then press 1; to un-mute, repeat.

New free tools help families save thousands in college costs

From Joe Nathan, Center for School Change, on May 1, 2013: “Several free new tools can help high school students and their families. The first is an interactive map answering questions parents, students and other family members have asked over the last several years. This Minnesota map allows you to click on each public or private non-profit college or university in the state.” Read more

A look ahead

Obviously, we are awaiting an E12 conference committee hearing, but on Tuesday, May 7, at 8:30 am, there is an important hearing on the Safe and Supportive School Act in Room 112 Capitol (E-12 Division, Chair: Sen. Charles W. Wiger). Please note: limited seating calls for special arrangements.

Due to high interest in SF 783 and limited seating, the hearing will be ticketed. Tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis outside Room 112 before the hearing with priority given to testifiers. Testimony on both sides will be time limited by the Chair, so proponents and opponents are encouraged to coordinate testimony to avoid duplication.

What can I be doing right now?

I can’t stress enough how critical it is at this time to express gratitude for making education a priority this session. The tax bills passed out of both bodies increase state taxes for the first time in over a decade and they do this specifically to invest in our schools.

After so many years when funds have been pulled from schools, please take the time to jot a note, send an email or make a call to thank every one of our elected officials who have gone out of their way to make schools a priority.

________________

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