Schools for Equity in Education

– Legislative Update

HF3224 marches on.  The Governor’s ambitious education finance bill heard in committee.  Reducing special education cross subsidy could provide needed academic and emotional supports for all students.

On Wednesday, HF3224/SF3554, the school levies tax relief bill, was heard in the property tax committee and laid on the table for possible inclusion in the property tax omnibus bill.  I would expect (but you NEVER know for sure when working with the legislature) that the tax relief, scaled way back, appears in the property tax omnibus bill.  SEE Executive Director Brad Lundell and several other education organizations are working with essential committee chairs in the House and Senate to keep the momentum going.  MN House Research released the official property tax relief and new revenues for each school district.  House Research assumes all school boards will take the new location optional revenue (LOR) and the long-term facilities maintenance (LTFM) levy authority.  Brad does a great job explaining this more in this Brad’s Blog post.  The tax relief per SEE district I distributed before does not assume the LOR and LTFM revenue increases.  Although we haven’t seen an equalization bill in the Senate yet, the Senate chairs in the tax and education finance & policy committees have shown interest in providing property tax relief.

Next Friday, March 25, is the first committee deadline when all policy omnibus bills must be completed.  The House Education Policy Committee explored a broad array of policies this session.  We’ve seen bills ranging from requiring a nurse in every school, universal free school meals for all students, requiring schools to screen all students for mental health issues, and modifying discipline policies to reduce or eliminate suspensions.  See the bills heard in committee here or here.  Because most policy has financial implications, the education policy omnibus bill moves to the education finance committee.  Its Chair Jim Davnie (DFL-Minneapolis) determines what policy to include in the final House education omnibus bill.   I wouldn’t expect the Senate to have an education policy omnibus.  Chair Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes) of the Senate Education Finance and Policy Committee has vigilantly opposed policy that quickly becomes unfunded mandates for our schools.   The state provides resources and sets academic standards that students must meet.  SEE believes local schools are better equipped to identify and meet the needs of their students than the 201 legislators at the State Capitol.

The House Education Finance Committee heard HF4300, which is the bill that incorporates the Governor’s proposed $790 million increase for education next year.   I haven’t seen the revenue runs per school district yet.  The bill includes an additional 2% increase for a total increase of 4% to the basic formula next year, much more reflective of the current inflation rates.  Also included are special education and English language (EL) learners cross subsidy reductions and a BOLD literacy package.  The Governor’s proposal is ambitious and very prescriptive about how resources are spent.  I don’t expect much agreement between the Governor and Senate on the size and provisions of the bill.  You can find more information, including more details on the spending provisions, here on the SEE website.  The deadline for the finance omnibus bills is April 8.

SEE promotes HF2657, which eliminates the special education cross subsidy as the way to fund our schools.  The House Education Finance Committee heard the bill and laid it on the table for possible inclusion in the omnibus bill.  Students had a rough couple of years with their disrupted education through Covid.   Schools need more than the 2% increase to the basic formula to provide the academic, social, and emotional supports that so many students need.  Paying down the special education cross subsidy gives local control to school districts to meet the unique needs of their students.

Another special education bill heard in committee addresses the financial challenges of serving cognitively and medically fragile students.  Special education students deserve the services, but individual school districts need help covering the especially high-cost services.  HF3963 provides additional funding to school districts to limit the cost of providing special education services to three times the statewide average special education cost per student.   Read more.


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