Schools for Equity in Education

– Legislative Update

Busy week at the Capitol. The education bill was signed into law, and the Governor released his plan to spend $132 million from the federal education Covid relief aid.

The final E-12 education finance and policy bill gained solid bipartisan support, passing on a 105-20 vote in the House and 65-0 in the Senate.

Education bill at a glance

Highlights

  • Gives school districts local control to use resources to meet the individual needs of their students and community by funding the basic formula. Over 80% of the new funding increases the formula – 2.45% in 2021-22 and 2% in 2022-23. The 2.45% increase is the largest seen in 14 years when the basic formula was increased by 4% in 2006-07. See the history of the basic formula.
  • Provides a suite of programs designed to increase teachers of color in Minnesota. Studies show students do better when they experience teachers that look like them.
  • Preserves voluntary PreK spots for 4,000 at-risk children across the state.
  • Provides a modest amount of funding to reduce the English Learners (EL) cross subsidy (unfunded cost of providing mandated services).
  • Establishes grant programs for literacy, suicide prevention, and training in discipline practices that keep students in the classroom.
  • Delay in implementing new academic standards until June 1, 2023, allowing schools to focus on getting kids back in the classroom and meeting their educational, social, and emotional needs.
  • Requires very few new mandates, many of which school districts are already doing.
  • Includes a significant investment in expanding broadband in Greater Minnesota. Distance learning highlighted the inequity resulting from students not having internet access. Funding for this was in the Jobs and Economic Development bill.

Lowlights

  • $10.4 million to reduce the special education cross subsidy. This is a fraction of what is needed just to stop the cross subsidy from growing next year. Additionally, the funding is for one year only, and then it goes away.  Legislators know that the special education cross subsidy is the largest financial challenge most districts face. Legislators can say they reduced the cross subsidy, but that is somewhat misleading.
  • Reducing the high taxpayer cost of school levies in property-poor districts through equalization is not in the final bill. The Governor included $95 million in equalization, and the Senate had $24 million, which is progress that shows the issue is increasing in importance. Yet, we still have more work to do to get increased equalization over the finish line.
  • Both the voluntary PreK and the EL funding are not ongoing. The PreK appropriation ends after two years, and the EL aid stops after four years.

After distributing the district revenue run,  I was asked why most school districts’ total revenue increases are less than the basic formula increases. Although the basic formula is a significant part of a district’s total revenue it is not the only funding stream. Between 31 to 67 percent of Minnesota school districts’ revenue is not the basic formula, and much of it will remain flat going into next year.

Usually, I find more lowlights, but this is a pretty good bill, but not great. It will not prevent all cuts as new funding in many districts does not keep up with inflation, rising cross subsidies, and other financial pressures. Yet, thanks to the House for fighting for a high enough budget target so the formula increases could happen. Thanks to the Senate for resisting many new mandates. The chairs and members of the education committees worked hard with leadership to make E-12 public education a top priority.

Following is the explanation of what is in the final education bill in different formats

  • SEE Final SEE Brief Summary – one and a half pages
  • SEE Side-by-Side Education Bill Summary – first six pages
  • All the detail you could want, including the House Research summary, bill text, etc.
  • Check out Brad’s Blog for more detail of the busy week at the Capitol.
  • in various grant programs, including full-service community schools, expansion of rigorous coursework, training for non-exclusionary discipline strategies, funding for Life Skills/Transition programs for students receiving special education, and other initiatives.
  • $13.6 million dedicated to building and reinforcing systems and structures with the Minnesota Department of Education to better support students, families, and educators.

America Rescue Plan

The Governor was given discretionary authority to spend 10% of the $1.3 billion of the ESSER III funding that the state received from the federal Covid relief aid. The other 90% was distributed directly to school districts through the Title-1 formula, based on the concentration of poverty within the district. Following is how the Governor intends to spend this revenue.

  • $66 million distributed to public schools to support students using evidence-based strategies. The funding is based on a district’s concentration of historically underserved students, emphasizing students receiving special education services. MDE will look at the amount of funding a district received from the 90% title-based distribution, and only “unmet” needs will be funded. I have not seen the revenue data yet to see what that means for individual school districts.
  • $13.2 million dedicated to Ignite Afterschool to provide grants for evidence-based after-school programs. Fifty percent of the funds must go to community-based programs.
  • $13.2 million dedicated to summer enrichment allocated through grants, with 50% going to community-based programs.
  • $26 million in various grant programs, including full-service community schools, expansion of rigorous coursework, training for non-exclusionary discipline strategies, funding for Life Skills/Transition programs for students receiving special education, and other initiatives.
  • $13.6 million dedicated to building and reinforcing systems and structures with the Minnesota Department of Education to better support students, families, and educators.

More Information on the Governor’s Plan / Governor’s Press Release / Minnesota to spend $132 million in federal rescue money to boost student recovery from pandemic effects (news8000.com)

As the legislative work is complete, this is the last SEE legislative update. However, expect the updates to pop up in your mailbox again in late January when the 2022 legislative session begins.

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