Targets: Expect more, pay more – Update for March 22, 2013

Isn’t it time we re-considered our theory of expect more, pay less?

The last 10 years have brought increased expectations for Minnesota schools – in particular that 100% of our students will graduate from high school ready for college and career – and the mandated testing and services to try to get us there.

But funding has been on a different track:

  • In 2001, the uniform general education levy was repealed and cost the state $1 billion in school funding each subsequent biennium (two-year budget cycle).
  • School funding became totally reliant on the health of the state economy; Minnesota has had state deficits nine of the last 10 years.
  • For 10 years, there has been no appetite to raise taxes at the state level, so there has been no new money for schools.
  • School districts worked to pass local voter-approved property tax levies to pay for what the state no longer was
  • Today over 92% of school districts are reliant on these local voter-approved levies.
  • In 2013, schools in Minnesota have the buying power they had in 2003.
  • Opportunities for students are now dependent on a district’s ability to pass, and the residents’ capacity to afford, voter-approved levies.

Governor, House and Senate all commit dollars to schools

The targets announced by the House and Senate this week define what each body wishes to spend in each area of the budget. Meeting the targets in any of these budgets requires NEW REVENUE be raised. Simply put: no increase in taxes, no money for schools.

Over the biennium (the next two years) Governor Dayton’s budget places $324 million in E-12 and $244 million in post-secondary, the House E-12 target is $550 million and $150 million for post-secondary, and the Senate spends $486.4 million for E-12 and $262.7 for post-secondary

The governor’s proposal provides for state dollars across a student’s educational continuum – early childhood and All Day-K through post-secondary, with a particular focus on more challenged learners. He also provides $125 million to pay down the special education cross subsidy. Note: The state is to pay a certain amount for a district’s special education costs. When the state does not have the money to do this, those costs are “subsidized” by the district. This is called “cross subsidy.” A district needs to use the per pupil formula to pay these costs. Minnesota’s cross subsidy has grown to $600 million.

The House proposes to repay the school shift more quickly by creating a temporary surcharge on earners over $500,000. The surcharge would stop once the $800 million needed to repay schools was raised. This is in addition to their $550 million target. The House also seems interested in All Day K.

In addition to their $486.4 million proposed for eduation, the Senate is proposing property tax relief by using money from their tax target to provide a new “education achievement revenue” and increase the equalization factor that has remained static since 1993. They wish to provide greater tax fairness and equalization aid for struggling districts.

Now that committee chairs have their targets and know what they can spend, after recess, we will see the Education Omnibus bills come together. It is the most exciting time in the session.

But don’t we already spend 50% of our state budget on schools?

To correct an oft-repeated misconception: Education does NOT account for 50% of Minnesota’s budget. K-12 funding accounts for 42% of the general fund of the state budget; the general fund accounts for half of the state budget; thus, K-12 spending accounts for about 25% of the state budget.

Also, a point often lost when conversations get heated is that the percent of our state budget AND the percent of personal income we are spending on schools has been shrinking:

Safe and Supportive Schools bill moves forward – Tom Anderson, Parents United intern

A recent report found that Minnesota has the weakest anti-bullying law in the country. School districts have put measures into place but there is no overarching law to seriously deal with the issue of bullying. Rep. Davnie authored HF 826 “The Safe and Supportive Schools Act.” The bill would create a more comprehensive law through implementation of Gov. Dayton’s anti-bullying task force recommendations. Some of the highlights of the bill:

  • Requires schools to establish anti-bullying programs.
  • The program must designate a primary contact person to organize all anti-bullying efforts and engage teachers and volunteers in yearly anti-bullying training.
  • Requires a bullying category to be added to the School Performance Report Card, which would include incidents of bullying and remedial responses.
  • Provides a standard definition of bullying which includes “words, images, or actions between individuals or through technology that have the effect of materially interfering with students’ ability to participate in a safe and supportive learning environment.”
  • Provides a model policy for schools. They can choose to adopt it or to use it as a blueprint for the creation of their own anti-bullying program.

Last Thursday, testimony from organizations representing school boards, teachers, and principals expressed support for the bill but raised concerns over how much it would cost the schools. The bill would require districts to appoint an anti-bullying point person, and would require yearly staff training. With lean budgets, schools are nervous about the cost of implementation. According to committee testifiers, Rep. Davnie has been working closely with these organizations to make sure there is money allocated. However, he downplayed the potential costs of the bill by stating that schools already provided yearly training; they could roll anti-bullying training in with the existing program. He also stated that there are already people in charge of anti-bullying efforts within schools. Therefore, the potential cost would be minimal. Although there was some disagreement on the amount, everyone agreed that there would be some cost.

An additional concern was raised by Rep. Moran. She agreed that children needed to feel comfortable in schools but she worried that this would lead to more African American youth being suspended. Her concern is that we will end up with more young people on the street and less in the classroom. Rep. Davnie promptly replied that this bill stressed remediation and a “restorative approach.” He stated that the intent was to keep more kids in school. The anti-bullying programs would help students realize why their actions were wrong as opposed to simply kicking them out of school. According to Rep. Davnie, this would allow more students to graduate and would prepare students for a future in which the workforce is becoming increasingly diverse.

Another concern was raised regarding the requirement for private schools to participate in the new anti-bullying standards. Representatives for Catholic and private schools testified in opposition to the bill. They agree that safe schools are paramount but do not want the state mandating their participation in the Safe and Supportive Schools Act. Rep. Davnie clarified this provision by pointing out that only private schools who accepted public funding would be bound by the new law. Rep. Newton argued in favor of this position, stating that private schools who receive public dollars should be held to the same standard as public schools. He stated that private schools who did not wish to be bound by the legislation could choose not to take public money.

HF 826 is currently traveling alone through the House and Senate, with no fiscal note attached. If the bill is passed, it will have to receive funding through the Education Omnibus Bill. There appears to be broad support for The Safe and Supportive Schools Act, as long as there is adequate funding for implementation.

Related: Article from Mankato Free Press – Bullying not just a K 12 issue

A Look Ahead

The Legislature will be in recess the week of March 25-March 29, so it’s a great time to catch up with your representatives. They are back in their districts and listening carefully to what their friends and neighbors are saying. When they reconvene April 2, it will be a race to the finish. Because “the Legislature may not meet in regular session after the first Monday following the third Saturday in May of any year,” they will need to complete their work by May 21.

There are several interesting days ahead as each body works to put together an Education Omnibus bill, amends it, moves it forward, amends it, conferences it and eventually passes it! That should take about six more weeks!

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
HF808 (Bernardy) Adult basic education aid annual program growth factor increased.
HF1407 (Anzelc) Allocation of contracted pupil transportation expenses across categories simplified.
HF1406 (Radinovich) Education advancement revenue created, operating referendum reduced, property taxes reduced, and money appropriated.
HF1141 (Moran) Homeless children qualified for early educational services.
HF658 (Melin) Taconite revenue levy reductions adjusted.
HF448 (Bernardy) School lunch aid increased.
HF818 (Moran) Minnesota Principals’ Academy funding provided, and money appropriated.
HF973 (Davnie) Collaborative urban educator recruitment and training program grants authorized, and money appropriated.
HF1058 (Winkler) Early learning scholarship program established, access to quality early learning and care expanded, and money appropriated – removed from the agenda.
HF826 (Davnie) Safe and supportive schools provided for, rulemaking authorized, and money appropriated

House Education Policy
HF986 (Newton) School personnel notice and reporting requirements added.
HF1059 (Morgan) Charter school provided for, and annual portfolio report authorized.
HF1383 (Newton) Special education caseloads task force established, individualized education program development governing rules modified, and special education service purchasing governing rules modified.
HF356 (Newton) School districts allowed to use safe schools levy proceeds for collaborating with mental health professionals, and money appropriated.
HF336 (Winkler) Nutrition policy provided for, and money appropriated.

House Early Childhood and Youth Development
HF1106 (Allen) Child protection screening work group established for the purpose of establishing consistency in child protection screening.

Senate E12 Division
S.F. 1003 Bonoff Parent-child home program appropriation.
S.F. 808 Dziedzic Collaborative urban educator recruitment and training programs appropriation.
S.F. 23 Metzen Special school district #6, South St. Paul; alternative facilities revenue program participation eligibility.
S.F. 304 Metzen Independent school district #199, Inver Grove Heights; alternative facilities revenue program participation eligibility.
S.F. 1309 Clausen Education building lease levy maximum amount increase.
S.F. 1042 Kent SciMathMN grant appropriation authorization.
S.F. 1267 Kent Minnesota reading corps program appropriation.
S.F. 956 Weber Independent school district #2904, Tracy; expired disabled access levy authority use authorization.
S.F. 1214 Hayden Special school district #1, Minneapolis; community standards initiative CSI: Minnesota to reduce the achievement gap appropriation.
S.F. 929 Nienow General education disparity aid eligibility designation for school districts or charter schools with below average revenue.
S.F. 933 Hoffman, J. School district compensatory education revenue allocation minimum level provision.
S.F. 1222 Stumpf Career and technical education revenue formula modification.
S.F. 177 Skoe School districts equalization aid levels increase for operating referendum and debt service equalization aid programs; education advancement revenue creation.
S.F. 978 Torres Ray Early childhood through grade 12 education policies modifications
S.F. 799 Johnson, A. Students per school counselors minimum ratio established
S.F. 269 Torres Ray Education in Care and Treatment Settings Act
S.F. 569 Hoffman, J. Equalization levies increase and indexing authorization for property tax relief.

Senate Committee on Education
S.F. 950 Carlson, J. Deaf and hard-of-hearing teachers continuing education clock hour requirements modifications.
S.F. 1083 Clausen School district restrictive procedures use for children with disabilities clarification.
S.F. 711 Torres Ray Achievement and integration for Minnesota program to close the achievement and opportunity gap establishment.

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