The House Property Tax Committee included about $40 million a year in equalization for local optional revenue (LOR) in the property tax omnibus. The equalization is for the first $300 of the $724 per pupil levy and bases the tax relief on current market values to make the property tax relief permanent and ongoing. In recent years, this increase would have been significant. But given the state’s budget surplus, the amount is only modest. The legislature can do better. The bill was amended to add joint powers in long-term facilities maintenance (LTFM) and allows joint powers and other cooperatives into lease levy programs. I consider this bill a property tax relief bill, not an equity bill. Neither the operating referendum nor the building bond voter-approved levies saw increased equalization to make these levies more affordable in low-property wealth districts. See the property tax relief by school district. The bill goes to the tax committee, where it is expected to be incorporated into the House Tax Committee’s omnibus bill.
The tax bills are excluded from committee deadlines, and negotiations can continue to the session’s final moments. With the equalization in the House bill, it will likely be part of the final negotiations even if the school levy property tax relief is not in the Senate’s tax omnibus. In speaking with the Senate, I was told that equalization is still alive. Talks on this issue will probably pick up after the Senators return from spring break on April 18. Expect to see an action alert around this time.
In a pleasant display of bipartisan cooperation, the Senate invited the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) to talk about the Governor’s BOLD literacy plan. Boosting student literacy is critical for the future success of our students and our state, and too many students are not proficient readers. The Senate focuses on training K-5 teachers in the science of reading through the LETRS professional training. MDE said the BOLD literacy plan is a birth through grade 12 action plan for literacy achievement and laid out a strategy of engaging educators, families, communities, and the higher education entities that prepare teachers. MDE also brought a $5 million proposal to increase access for all students to high-quality literacy initiatives through the Minnesota multi-tiered system of supports (MnMTSS). Learn more from this very informative MDE presentation
. Chair Roger Chamberlain complimented the plan, saying there are a lot of good provisions in it.
Next Friday, April 8, is the deadline for finance bills.
Senate Education Finance and Policy Omnibus Bill
The Senate just released its education finance omnibus bill, which didn’t take long to review as it spends just $30.7 million in new funding. The following are provisions in the bill.
- $30 million (one-time grant) for all K-5 teachers to take LETRS training if they want it.
- $700,000 (ongoing funding) for LETRS-certified literacy support directors at each Regional Center of Excellence to assist schools in improving reading.
- Suspends the requirements of the World’s Best Workforce (WBWF) for five years.
- School districts must adopt a plan to have 90 percent of their third-grade students proficient as measured by statewide or locally adopted reading assessments.
- Regional Centers of Excellence must prioritize reading based on the science of reading, and leadership must be trained by LETRS-certified reading professionals,
- Beginning in February 2026, all teacher candidates must have instruction in LETRS before graduating.
- See the bill language
As the Governor’s office and the House are controlled by the same party, the House traditionally includes much of the Governor’s provisions. The Governor proposes $780 million in new spending, including a 2% increase to the basic formula, the BOLD literacy plan, mental health supports, and safe and supportive school environments. Plus, the House heard many bills and have priorities of their own, and it seemed the House preferred reducing the special education cross subsidy over a basic formula increase. There is a palatable frustration in the House, knowing the Senate will strip away all of their proposals that the Governor and House feel are so essential to close the achievement gap and support all students, such as the following.
As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me!
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