Welcome to the New (and Hopefully Improved) Blog. With the updating of the website, the blogging platform was switched for compatability purposes, so there may be a few hiccups as I move forward with the changes. Hopefully, the disruptions won’t be major.
HF 3224! The big news on the SEE front is the introduction of the major education levy equalization package that I have been working on with my compatriots in AMSD and MREA. We have worked collaboratively with legislators and staff in putting together a significant bill that was introduced on Thursday, February 10, by Representative John Huot. The text of the bill can be found here: HF3224 Bill Language
The bill provides greater equalization to three major school levies:
- It sets the equalization factor for Local Option Revenue at 150% of the state average referendum market value per pupil unit.
- It sets the equalization factor for the Operating Referendum at 125% of the state average referednu market value per pupil unit.
- It lowers the threshold for eligibility for Debt Service Equalzation from 15.74% of local effort to 10% of local effort and increases the equalizing factor from 55.33% of statewide adjusted net tax capacity per student to 100% of statewide average adjusted net tax capacity per student.
In addition, the bill adds $101 per pupil unit to the Local Option Revenue funding category, raising it to $825 per pupil unit. This reflects the inflationary growth in the program since its inception in 2014. The bill also enhances the Debt Service Equalization program for districts that are combining and extends Long Term Facilities Maintenance Revenue to cooperative units.
One of the major strengths of the approach defined by the bill is that it would index the equalizing factors for Local Option Revenue and the Operativng Referendum would be indexed to statewide growth in property wealth. The equalizing factors in current law are tied to constant values. This results in property tax relief amounts related to those levies decreasing as a district’s property wealth per student increases. Indexing the equalizing factors would ensure that the ratio of aid-to-levy would remain, if not constant, within a narrow range.
There’s no question this is a massive undertaking that would require a significant investment in terms of state resources. That said, at a time when there is a considerable budget surplus looking into the next biennium, the opportunity to make this level of change should be seriously considered. This bill would build on the efforts of the past three decades in terms of levy equalization and would, in my opinion, fully embody the spirit of the original Minnesota Miracle passed in 1971 and correct some of the unintended shortcomings that were not foreseen when that effort took place.
I will keep you updated on the progress of this bill throughout the session.
Elsewhere in the Session, The second week of the 2022 Legislative Session featured a full slate of education-related committee hearings. The highlights included a discussion of Representative Hodan Hassan’s HF 2950. This is Governor Walz’s crisis learning bill that provides guidance regarding the implementation of online learning and some relaxation of requirements from short-term substitute teachers. Workforce issues have bedeviled school districts throughout the past two years and HF 2950 seeks to provide some relief. There is concern that the provisions related to short-term substitute teachers does not go far enough in providing relief. The Senate will be hearing Senator Gene Dornink’s SF 819 next Wednesday, which is an approach that was part of both the House and Senate omnibus education funding and policy bills in 2021, but was not included in the final omnibus bill passed during the special session.
The House Education Finance Committee heard bills on proposals that would reduce the English Learner cross-subsidy–HF 2944 (Her) — and the special education cross-subsidy–HF 2567 (Wolgamott):–during its deliberations. Faribault Superintendent Todd Sesker testified in favor of HF 2944 and Albert Lea Superintendent Mike Funk testified in favor of HF 2567. I’m always pleased when I can help get folks from SEE member districts in front of committees to tell their stories.
The Senate Education Finance and Policy Committee held hearings on Monday and Wednesday on two initiatives they promoted during the 2021 Legislative Session that were part of the final omnibus bill. On Monday, the committee heard from representatives from LiveMore/ScreenLess on their efforts with the grant they received last year and on Wednesday, the committee heard from a variety of advocates of scientific reading strategies regarding the grant that allows teachers to receive LETRS training. Those grants have obviously been put to good use and the progress made in both areas is impressive. It is interesting to note that Minnesota’s formal efforts on educating students on the perils of too much screen time are the first in the nation and last year’s discussions took place well in advance of discussions held in the United States Congress. Great work by all involved!