Three Education-Related Committees Meet on Tuesday. The day started with the Senate Education Finance Committee meeting and a bill of great interest to SEE garnered a lot of attention. SF 613 would allow school boards to renew expiring operating levies. This issue has been before the Legislature numerous times the past decade, but it has never found enough traction to find its way into law. Owatonna Superintendent Jeff Elstad and Owatonna School Board Chair and Owatonna School Board Chair Mark Sebring testified in favor of the bill. The passage rate of referendum renewals is very high, making the effort needed to renew by voter-approval seem somewhat unnecessary. While this measure has elicited a lot of direct opposition in the past, today’s discussion by those who are skeptical of the bill sought to limit the option in several ways as opposed to outright opposing it. The Governor has some limited language in his budget regarding the concept and I would not be surprised if significant progress on this approach is made this session. The Senate also heard bills that increase developmental screening aid and increase Childcare Stabilization Grants.
The House Education Finance Committee heard Representative Wolgamott’s HF 18 that would fully fund special education and eliminate the cross-subsidy. The Governor’s budget recommendations call for an on-going 50% reduction in the special education cross-subsidy which is balanced with an increase in the basic formula of 4% in the first year and 2% in the second year of the biennium. It will be extremely difficult to put too much more in either of these funding streams without compromising the other. Both the formula increase and reduction in the special education and English Language cross-subsidies will be a part of the final omnibus education funding bill (along with funding for a variety of other initiatives) and it will be interesting to see how everything fits together. The committee also heard Representative Vang’s bill that would increase funding for Full Service Community Schools.
The hearing day ended with the House Education Policy Committee hearing Representative Pryor’s bill that would delay implementation of the proposed physical education standards. The committee also heard a school bus safety issue authored by Representative Elkins and a presentation by the Minnesota State Demographer on Minnesota’s changing Educational Demographics.
First SEE Day on the Hill. A group of school board members and administrators from Forest Lake and St. Francis visited the Capitol as part of SEE’s initial Day on the Hill for the 2023 session. I urge all SEE members to take advantage of this opportunity to visit SEE area legislators and make your case for more (and more equitable) funding and a more equitable property tax system to help fund Minnesota’s education funding framework. Thanks to all who particpated!