Parents, students and teachers around the state are making their exasperation over the education spending targets heard AT THE RIGHT TIME AND TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE! Since our last update, there is a greater understanding of what is happening at the Capitol that will impact schools and people are acting!
We have a couple of weeks to change the minds of our elected officials–to demand they invest more dollars into education. Let’s keep it up — this is exactly what we need! To review background and specifics of why we need #more4kidsmn—check last week’s Update.
A Game Changer
In a very surprising move Thursday, the House minority unveiled an education proposal to spend $800 million—a significantly higher number than the House majority target of $157m and more than doubling the Senate target of $350m. They add 2% on the per pupil formula, phase-in universal 4 year pre-K and provide dollars for the newly mandated Teacher Development and Evaluation.
You may remember the Senate minority held a press conference early in session making the case for 3% on the formula with no increase in mandates. Interesting that the minorities from both chambers seem more in line with the thinking around Minnesota than the majorities.
The Public in Action
Here’s what students, parents and teachers are doing around the state to make a difference!
• Students ~ Highland HS junior James Farnsworth (@jtfarnsworth) has organized a Twitter hashtag campaign #MNSurplus4MNStudents using images of students holding signs about their futures. They’re asking interested folks to share in this effort on Twitter.
• Parents ~ A parent in Northfield wrote this op ed piece and will host a calling coffee for community members to say, “It’s not enough!” She stated, “As concerned constituents we can be a powerful voice.” In Wayzata, parents wrote this editorial in their local paper making the case to fund the per pupil formula to keep up with inflation, an action that will help each and every school district across the state.
• Teachers ~ EdMN is holding a “Tell our state reps to vote NO on the education bill” rally tomorrow, Saturday April 25th, 10am-1pm to draw attention to the low education target in the House.
Where Do I Put my Energy?
School districts are working on their budgets for next year right now. Many parents have been alarmed and headed to school board meetings to argue for fewer cuts. While it’s good to engage with your school boards and share priorities, it is vital to go upriver with your advocacy and contact your Senator or Representatives. They are friends and neighbors we have sent to the legislature to represent us…tell them what you believe!
What do we need to do? Sway the caucuses and impact leadership. A caucus is legislators of a particular political party meeting to decide policy.
Why do we need to sway them? Caucuses are held in private, allowing members to share what they are hearing. If the room is filled with elected officials who have all heard stories why schools need more, it will impact leadership to negotiate for a larger investment!
How do we sway them? By sharing your concerns for what may be cut at your school.
When do we act? Right now! Omnibus bills are heading for floor debate and after they pass, conference committees will be appointed. We need a new funding target by the time the education funding omnibus bill is conferenced. Historically the House and Senate averages what each body has proposed. In this case, 1% from the Senate ($58) and .6% from the House ($33) amounts to .8%–or around $45 per student.
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What is happening at the Minnesota Capitol right now that will impact our school?
Tired of cuts in our schools? Next year, the Minnesota Senate is proposing to add 1% on the per pupil formula and the House .6%. In plain language, this means the House wants each student to have $33 more and the Senate believes $58 is sufficient.
- The majority of money schools can use comes from this per pupil formula.
- The per pupil formula is an amount set by the legislature, not school boards, superintendents or principals.
- The per pupil formula is the same for each child across the state.
- Over the last 20 years the formula has increased on average less than HALF of inflation.
In their Education Funding bills, both House and Senate propose to increase the per pupil formula less than inflation…once again. AND, perhaps most importantly, this is happening at a time when we have an historic state budget surplus.
Let me make this clear: either proposal means cuts to schools. An addition of 1% on the per pupil formula means major cuts to schools, .6% on the formula means even deeper cuts to opportunities for our kids. House and Senate spending targets are simply not enough.
ACT NOW to avoid cuts to schools
1. Contact your legislators to tell them that the House and Senate spending targets are simply not enough. They need to share what they’re hearing with their leaders and their caucus. (If you wish, to save time, simply cc education leadership listed under Step 2)
What should you say?
- Tell them your story. What will cuts in your school look like? Cuts to programs? Teachers? Options for kids? Higher class sizes? Counselors? Arts programs? Nurses? Support staff? Technology programs? What’s “on the table” to be cut?
- How have you had to help make up the difference these last several years? Passing levies? Fundraising for basic supplies? Losing extra-curricular programs?
- Schools have been cutting for 15 years, now we have a surplus and with these targets they will need to cut again!?
- 1% (Senate) and .6% (House) on the per pupil formula will mean cuts to our schools.
2. Contact House and Senate Education Leadership: House Finance Chair Rep Jenifer Loon, House Education Policy Chair Rep Sondra Erickson, and E-12 Education Chair Senator Chuck Wiger, and tell them what you told your representatives. Ask them to urge their leadership to raise the targets. More money on the formula will give districts a greater chance to best serve their students where most needed.
3. Contact House Speaker Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Bakk and tell them the same message. They are the ones with the most power to change the targets. And lastly, contact Governor Dayton. and let him know what you are saying to your representatives.
4. THEN, share this list of 3 steps with every parent, grandparent or friend you can think of who lives in other parts of Minnesota. These policies will affect every school across the state. Voices will have much more impact if they are coming from everywhere.
New information about what is happening at the Capitol
Early this week, the House Tax committee unveiled its Omnibus tax bill. It appears that the reason the House education spending target is so unacceptably low is because the House majority has decided on a $2 billion dollar tax cut. This uses the entire budget surplus PLUS relies on deep cuts to other parts of the budget to meet its intention. By 2018, the cost escalates to $3.1 billion. Additionally, many provisions “phase-in” over several years, thereby disguising the true overall cost. The net result of this bill will be less and less spending on services required by Minnesotans.
Let’s look at two costly provisions.
On first blush, an expensive proposal to exempt social security benefits seems sympathetic and generous for our seniors. However, to be clear, low-income seniors do NOT currently pay tax on their benefits. The new proposal will exempt high-income seniors. There is no good policy reason that a senior household with an income of $100,000 should pay less tax then a non-senior household with the same income.
The cuts also include a total elimination of the statewide general levy over the next 6 years. This is a property tax on commercial/industrial and recreational property that pays for critical services for Minnesota citizens. This is a repeat of what happened to schools in the early 2000s when the general education levy was jettisoned. Our public schools have experienced the impact of eliminating a tax like this and have been trying to play catch up ever since. This proposal creates the same chaos.
There are several avenues that can be taken in times of a budget surplus. Two include investments in areas that will advantage the state’s economic future, or cuts that advantage defined constituents. The intention of this bill is clear and the initial ramification is that the House has decided that $33 per student next year is just fine.
What is Parents United’s agenda? Our agenda is simple: we don’t speak for parents, but work to provide credible, timely information about education policy and the law-making process so parents can speak for themselves. Truth be told, Parents United is a translator of complex terms and policy implications, as well as a navigator fora legislative process often oblique to the public