It’s a pretty simple equation – Update for March 15, 2013

Governor’s supplemental budget unveiled

Parents United has a tag line – “We carry them, then they carry us. It’s a pretty simple equation.” This references the symbiotic relationship we have with our children.

The time has come to consider another pretty simple equation. In a state that has seen budget deficits for nine of the last 10 years, dealing with the real problem seems to be the right move.

The governor’s original tax proposal lowered property taxes by using a new business to business service tax. In his supplemental budget, he removed this, yet retained his proposal to tax the top 2% of earners to invest in our children.

According to a Star Tribune article, when the governor spoke at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce event Wednesday, the 600-member group gave him a standing ovation for the removal of the business to business service tax, but still opposed the top earner tax. One naysayer quoted in the article was Scott Wine, CEO of Polaris. A March 11 Star Tribune CEO Pay Watch listed Mr. Wine’s 2012 compensation as $31 million.

Currently, the top 1% of Minnesotans pay 9.7% in total state and local taxes, the average taxpayer pays 11.5%.

According to the Minnesota Budget Project:

  • The difference between the share of income that the wealthiest pay in taxes and the share that the average Minnesotan pays has grown since the early 1990s.
  • Taxes are a lower share of Minnesotans’ income today than in the mid-1990s, and we are not raising adequate revenues to avoid persistent budget deficits.

So here is the equation for today: a tax increase on the top 2% in exchange for investments in education, pre-K through college. And by the way, the average income of the top 2% is $617,000.

Omnibus policy bills shaping up in both bodies

Legislative Process tutorial: when multiple bills dealing with one topic are rolled into one large bill it is called an Omnibus bill. The House and Senate each produce their own Education Omnibus bill and when the process is complete and the bill passes through all relevant committees the two different bills are “conferenced.”

A conference committee is comprised of members from the House and Senate who negotiate the two bills into one that all conferees can agree upon. Once the conference committee resolves their differences, that bill can no longer be amended and returns to each body for a final “up or down” floor vote. If either the House or Senate cannot accept the conference committee report, the bill may be sent back to conference committee for further work.

This week both House and Senate produced Education Omnibus policy bills. These bills will next be seen in Education finance committees. It is too early in the process to say for sure what will be in the final bill come May, and although they are very different bills, there are a few provisions in both that I believe families may find interesting:

  • Requires 165 days of school.
  • Language that requires districts to develop guidelines for assessing and identifying students who qualify for gifted and talented programs.
  • Requires computer adaptive reading and math tests for 3-8 graders.
  • Provides for early childhood scholarships.
  • Allows students entering 9th grade before 2013-14 who have not passed MCAs or GRAD to satisfy these requirements for graduation by taking ACT.
  • Changes in graduation requirements: In order to graduate from high school students will be required to 1) demonstrate readiness on college entrance exam; 2) take achievement and career and college tests in math, reading and writing; and 3) engage in activities and assessments for developing career interests.
    • Requires districts to assist students no later than 9th grade to plan for post-secondary education or enrollment.
    • Requires districts to encourage students in grade 11 or 12, identified as ready, to participate in programs awarding college credit to high school students.
    • Requires districts to use labor market information and partnerships to help students and families pursue an individualized plan for postsecondary education or a career.
    • Requires school or district to record a student’s progress toward career and college readiness on the student’s high school transcript.

You’ll notice that a great deal of attention is being paid by both bodies and the Minnesota Department of Education to provide a new relevance in the testing protocol for Minnesota. The new design is to provide students a plan for “successful transition to postsecondary education and employment” in a very individualized manner.

Categorical Funding: Winner and Losers – by Tom Anderson, Parents United intern

It has been an eventful week in Education Finance Committee. School district representatives put forth numerous bills for possible inclusion in the upcoming Omnibus Bill. Many of these bills would create new categorical funding formulas in order to avoid layoffs and prevent cutting educational programs. A few of the bills are listed below:

  • HF1103 would create a new calculation for free- and reduced-price eligible pupil aid. This bill would cost the state approximately $70 million and benefits districts with a free and reduced lunch count of roughly 40% of the total enrollment or less.
  • HF755 would create disparity aid, in order to increase funding for schools where the per pupil revenue is less than 90 percent of the state average revenue. This would cost the state roughly $56 million.

These aforementioned bills are only a sample of the funding requests to be debated in the coming weeks. Because the general education formula does not cover the full expense of education, districts are scrambling to create new categorical funding formulas. Districts are competing with one another to get their formula into the Omnibus Bill to plug the holes left behind by the general education funding formula. This system forces districts to battle over limited resources, adds additional layers of complexity to the education funding formula, and creates a system of winner and losers. Over the next week, the legislature will be reviewing the bills and deciding which formulas are included. Essentially, they would be deciding who gets the funding and who is left out.

State legislators appeared to realize the problem, calling these measures “band aids, patches, and bridges.” As long as general education funding does not fully fund our schools, districts will have to fight for new categorical funding formulas to fill the hole; there will be winner and losers. It is major problem and restoration of the General Education Levy appears to be the solution.

Assessments for students AND teachers

One of the most important issues this session has been around testing – both for students and teachers. Our current student testing regiment, especially the Graduation-Required Assessment for Diploma (GRAD) and the Minnesota Teacher Licensure Exams (MTLE), have been debated and proposed changes have been made in both House and Senate Omnibus bills.

The proposals gaining the most speed:

  • To deal with the MTLE a task force is called for to review the concerns and provide recommendations to the 2014 legislature. In the meantime, waivers may be granted and temporary teaching licenses may be issued.
  • An agreed upon replacement for the GRAD will be a suite of tests that show college preparedness. Tests in 8th and 9th grade provide information to students and families as to a likely score on a college entrance exam and a nationally recognized college exam will be given to all students in high school.

It is too early to say whether these provisions will survive and in exactly what form, but this appears to be the general direction both House and Senate are moving.

  • HF1257/SF1224 (Rep. Yarusso/Sen. Dahle) Teacher candidates and licensure basic skills requirements clarified, and advisory task force established.
  • HF1337/SF1103 (Rep. Brynaert/Sen. Dahle) Statewide assessments aligned with state academic standards and career and college readiness benchmarks series provided for, and money appropriated.

A Look Ahead

Now that the February forecast has been digested, the governor releasing his supplemental budget, the House and Senate will provide targets to the different divisions. We expect the House to have its targets by March 25 and the Senate by March 30. This is when we turn a great deal of attention toward funding issues.

Easter/Passover Break the week of March 25 will have the Legislature in Recess. They will reconvene on April 2.

If you would like to plan a Capitol visit and need a little help—call us!!! It is always a good idea to check the House/Senate schedule the morning of your visit. Hearings and agendas are often changed.

Ideas legislators are thinking about….

It is interesting to see the education bills that have been introduced and may be called up later for hearings; we keep a running list on our website. Senate Introductions   House Introductions

Bills scheduled to be heard this week

House Education Finance
HF592 (Winkler) Perpich Center for Arts Education authorized to operate a voluntary integration magnet school, staff and facilities transferred, funding formulas modified, and money appropriated.
HF833 (Fischer) Harambee community school transfer from the East Metro Integration District to the Roseville school district clarified.
HF954 (Davnie) School districts’ ability to lease a facility to a charter school clarified.
HF867 (Marquart) General education revenue definition modified.

HF1041 (Marquart) Alternative attendance program adjustment clarified.
HF1111 (Newton) Health and safety revenue program incorporated into the deferred maintenance revenue program, and per pupil formula allowance set for the program.
HF825 (Hertaus) Education health and safety revenue uses modified.
HF1103 (Newton) School district compensatory funding minimum level provided.
HF393 (Morgan) Compensatory revenue authorized to be spent on early education efforts, including parental outreach.
HF755 (Barrett) School districts with below average revenue new source of state aid created.
HF383 (Benson) School district location equity index created, general education revenue formula modified, and revenue increased for some school districts.

House Education Policy
HF1067 (Erickson, R.) Land transfer from Red Lake School District to the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians authorized.
HF984 (Urdahl) School board prohibited from not renewing a coaching contract based solely on the existence of parent complaints.
HF734 (Urdahl) Career and technical education advisory task force established for improving student outcomes in grades 11 to 14.
HF354 (Selcer) Teacher licensure renewal requirements related to recognizing mental illness in children and adolescents clarified.
HF562 (Abeler) Medical assistance coverage provided for services provided by a licensed professional counselor.
HF1151 (Mariani) Early childhood through grade 12 education policies modified including general education, education excellence, special programs, libraries, and early childhood education.
HF638 (Newton) Vision therapy pilot project funding provided, and money appropriated.
HF998 (Moran) Charter schools additional accountability provided.
HF1220 (Winkler) Online Learning Advisory Council modified.
HF1059 (Morgan) Charter school provided for, and annual portfolio report authorized.
HF1006 (Selcer) Teachers licensed to teach deaf and hard-of-hearing students in prekindergarten through grade 12 continuing education clock hour requirements clarified.
HF685 (Bly) At-risk and off-track students alternative routes to a standard diploma established.
HF1089 (Mariani) Charter school provisions modified.
HF860 (Bernardy) English language learning aid for students not yet proficient in the English language extended from five to seven years
HF1151 (Mariani) Early childhood through grade 12 education policies modified including general education, education excellence, special programs, libraries, and early childhood education.

House Early Childhood and Youth Development
HF807 (Mullery) Juvenile delinquency case time period and renewals allowed for a continuance without adjudication.
HF1259 (Mullery) Individuals with juvenile court records background study requirements, and commissioner’s authority to grant a variance modified.
HF1350 (Mullery) Youth advisory group established.
HF1217 (Mullery) Sentence of life with release established when juveniles commit a heinous crimes
HF622 (Marquart) Minnesota Youth Council Committee established.
HF395 (Norton) Autism spectrum disorder pilot project program created, and money appropriated.
HF1121 (Norton) Prepaid health plans modified to include screening, diagnosis, and treatment of young children with autism spectrum disorder or other developmental conditions.
HF1338 (Norton) Parent notification required for incidents that may involve child maltreatment in a school facility.
HF1020 (Fischer) Emerging Adulthood Task Force created.
HF1106 (Allen) Child protection screening work group established for the purpose of establishing consistency in child protection screening.
HF890 (Abeler) Anoka County; family child care pilot program established.
HF510 (Dehn) State agencies required to establish youth internships or apprenticeships, utilization of small businesses encouraged in state procurement, and ethnic and cultural heritage tourism promoted.
HF1328 (Laine) Child care assistance accreditation bonus modified.
HF1293 (Mullery) Juvenile justice system discussion required.
HF1058 (Winkler) Early learning scholarship program established, access to quality early learning and care expanded, and money appropriated.
HF1239 (Abeler) Licensing data, human services licensing, child care programs, financial fraud and abuse investigations, vendors of chemical dependency treatment services, background studies, and fair hearings provisions modified; NETStudy use required for background studies.

Senate E12 Division
S.F. 739 Johnson, A. Adult basic education aid annual program growth factor increase.
S.F. 801 Johnson, A. Minnesota math corps program establishment and appropriation.
S.F. 807 Weber Independent school district #402, Hendricks; general reciprocity agreement exemption.
S.F. 81 Pederson Education integration revenue reinstatement.
S.F. 82 Pederson Independent school district #742, St. Cloud; onetime fund transfer authorization.
S.F. 462 Tomassoni Taconite revenue levy reductions adjustments.
S.F. 251 Petersen Compensatory revenue pilot project grants appropriation for certain school districts.
S.F. 767 Wiger General education referendum equalization revenue calculation obsolete language removal.

Senate Committee on Education
S.F. 481 Wiger Early learning scholarship program establishment; access to quality early learning and care expansion.
S.F. 1024 Wiklund Early care and education department creation.
S.F. 1103 Dahle Education statewide assessments alignment with state academic standards and career and college readiness benchmarks; career pathways advisory task force creation.
S.F. 812 Johnson, A. Vision therapy pilot project and appropriation.
S.F. 1155 Franzen School district boundary advisory task force establishment.
S.F. 945 Torres Ray School district department of education management assistance requests clarification.
S.F. 1224 Dahle Basic skills requirements for teacher candidates and licensure clarification; teacher licensure advisory task force establishment.
S.F. 1169 Carlson, J. Special education case loads task force creation.
S.F. 836 Bonoff Charter school contracts accountability measures expansion.
S.F. 789 Kent Student placement with ineffective teacher multiple times prohibition.

________________

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