School Finance Work Group Update

The School Finance Working Group met on Thursday, February 20, at the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE).

Old Business:

The working group heard from the special education subcommittee. Their recommendations revolved around three ideas that would reduce the funding pressure of the special education cross subsidy:

  • Improve the formula
  • Tuition billing
  • How to manage costs

New Business:

The South St. Paul Public Schools teams provided a case study to the group on how property tax equalization funding works in the state and more specifically in their school district.

Dave Webb, superintendent of the South St. Paul Schools described how the current use of the property tax system for funding school districts is not equitable. His presentation showed how it is inconsistent and outdated and harms many school districts families and students across the state. The state property tax system penalizes communities for having lower property wealth. Taxpayers with less property wealth in their community will pay 2 to 3 times more to raise the same amount of funding for their schools as a tax payer from a community that has more property wealth.

Minnesota students and families who live in low property wealth communities are impacted by the lack of opportunities in critical support services available in their school districts.  Kids are being harmed across our state because our lower property wealth communities often have fewer teachers, fewer opportunities and less access to critical support services due to unfair property tax funding. Minnesota currently measures all kids on the same academic scale, yet funding for school districts across the state isn’t equitable.  When the unfair equalization is fixed, either there will be no referenda, or it will be fully equalized so communities in school districts with lower levels of property wealth are not highly harmed by having fewer teachers and fewer opportunities and less access to critical support services for their children.

In the past some legislation has slightly improved equalization. However, the funding amount directed towards equalization is not sufficient enough to solve the problem.

The final presentation, Commissioner Ricker introduced the work group’s issue #5, Pupil Support Staff to Student Ratios.  She introduced two healthcare professionals who have established and worked in school-based health clinics across Minnesota.  The purpose of school based health clinics is to bridge the gap between health and education which will achieve health equity as well of education.

What Next:

The next meeting will be March 26 from 4 -7:00 p.m. at the Department of Education.  The agenda will include future case studies and work on emerging proposals.  The work group is looking to have their proposal finalized by the end of August and the Commissioner asked for members to host listening sessions around the state as they are beginning to generate interest and support.

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Federal Advocacy & Weekly Policy Update

Congressional Update

            Secretary DeVos to Testify about FY21 Education Budget Request

Secretary DeVos is scheduled to testify next week, before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. The Secretary will be the only witness and her testimony will focus on the president’s fiscal year 2021 budget request, which asked Congress to cut the Department of Education’s budget by 8.5% and to consolidate Title I and many other Elementary and Secondary Education Act programs into a single block grant. MSBA and NSBA strongly opposes the president’s proposed budget cuts and consolidation plan and we will work with members of the House and Senate to oppose it. The hearing is scheduled for Thursday, February 27 (10:00 AM EST) andwill be livestreamed here.

House Education Committee to Host Apprenticeship Hearing

The House Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommitteehas scheduled a hearing titled “Reauthorizing the National Apprenticeship Act: Strengthening and Growing Apprenticeships for the 21st Century.” The hearing is a precursor to expected bipartisan committee work to update the NAA, including emphasizing high need areas, such as early childhood educators. We expect Chairman Scott (D-VA) and Ranking Member Foxx (R-NC) to release draft apprenticeship legislation for public comment later this year. The hearing will be held on Thursday, February 27 (10:15 AM EST).  Witnesses have not yet been announced.  The hearing will be livestreamed here.

Administration Update

FCC Seeks Public Comment about Net Neutrality

This week, the FCC invited public comment on aspects of the agency’s Net Neutrality decision, which were overturned by a recent court decision. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals remanded key elements of the FCC’s rollback of net neutrality. In particular, the court decision said the agency must consider how the FCC’s decision affects public safety, Lifeline service, and broadband infrastructure. The rulemaking provides an opportunity for school districts to urge the FCC to provide protections to ensure that schools and students are not harmed by carrier decisions to block websites, “throttle” services, and preference their own or their partners’ online content. Public comments must be submitted on or before March 30, 2020.

 

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House and Senate Education Bill Introductions

Thursday, February 20th, 2020

House and Senate Education Finance and Policy Bill Introductions

For Weekly Legislative Updates See the Weekly Advocate

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House Education Bill Introductions

Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

House Education Finance and Policy Bill Introductions

For Weekly Education Updates See the Weekly Advocate

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House Education Bill Introductions

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

House Education Policy and Finance Bill Introductions

For Weekly Legislative Updates See the Weekly Advocate

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House and Senate Education Bill Introductions

Monday, February 17th, 2020

House and Senate Education Finance and Policy Bill Introductions

For Weekly Legislative Updates See the Weekly Advocate

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Federal Advocacy & Weekly Policy Update

Congressional Update

President Trump Submits Fiscal Year 2021 Education Budget Request to Congress

The White House released President Trump’s fiscal year 2021 budget request this week, including his proposed budget for the Department of Education. The president asked Congress to cut the Department of Education’s total budget by 8.4% and urged legislators to combine 29 Elementary and Secondary Education Act programs – including Title I – into a single funding stream called the “Elementary and Secondary Education for the Disadvantaged Block Grant”.  Under the president’s proposal, the new block grant would receive $19.4 billion, which represents a $4.8 billion cut to the covered programs. NSBA does not expect Congress to adopt the president’s request – he has sought similar cuts every year of his tenure – but the size of the proposed reductions is notable. Delivery of the president’s budget to Capitol Hill marks the beginning of the annual congressional budget process. During the coming weeks, the Senate and House appropriations committees will hold several hearings before beginning to draft the twelve separate bills that annually set funding levels for federal operations and programs.

Senate and House Focus on Cybersecurity, including Cyber Attacks on School Districts

The Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity director  testimonythis week before the Senate Homeland Security Committee that at least “89 universities, colleges, or school districts were impacted by ransomware” in 2019. This figure does not include dozens of other types of cyberattacks on school districts, including phishing and other hacks that did not feature demands for ransom, but which nonetheless were costly and compromised student, teacher, and other employee data. At the same hearing, the Executive Director of the Texas Department of Information Resources echoed DHS’s concern about schools’ network security, noting that at least 15 Texas school districtswere subject to recent ransomware attacks. Separately this week, the House Homeland Security Committee approved a bipartisan bill called the State and Local Cybersecurity Improvement Act to “make grants to States to address cybersecurity risks and cybersecurity threats to information systems of State, local, Tribal, or territorial governments, and for other purposes.”

 Administration Updates

Administration Establishes School Safety Clearinghouse

The Trump Administration launched a new School Safety Clearinghouse website: SchoolSafety.gov. The clearinghouse is designed to serve as a “one-stop-shop of resources for K-12 administrators, educators, parents, and law enforcement to use to prepare for and address various threats related to safety, security, and support in schools.” In conjunction with the announcement, Secretary Devos said, “[a]ll students deserve a safe learning environment, and the Federal School Safety Clearinghouse is an essential resource for information and best practices…because every school community has its own unique needs, SchoolSafety.gov equips decision makers with resources for developing, customizing, and implementing actionable school safety plans.” The site includes a “School Safety Readiness Tool, an assessment that assists users in evaluating their respective school’s safety posture across 10 foundational elements of school safety.”

Department of Ed Invites Comment about Proposed Sexual Misconduct Study

Section 8546 of the Every Student Succeeds Act requires states to have laws, regulations, or policies in place that prohibit all state education agencies, districts, schools, or any school employee, contractor, or agent from “assisting an individual in obtaining new employment if they know, or have probable cause to believe, that the individual has engaged in sexual misconduct with a student or minor in violation of the law.” The U.S. Department of Education has proposed to examine the development and implementation of such laws and policies, including evaluating the challenges states are having in implementing the requirements of Section 8546. The Federal Register noticeannouncing the study indicates that it is not intended to determine compliance with this particular section of ESSA, rather it will be used to inform the Department in technical assistance efforts to states. The Department is accepting comments about the study until March 11, 2020.

Department of Ed Invites Applications for Special Education Personnel Grants

This week, the Department of Education invited applications for the following IDEA competitive grant: “Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities – Leadership Development Programs: Increasing the Capacity of Leaders to Improve Systems Serving Children with Disabilities”. This discretionary grant focuses on personnel preparation in special education, early intervention, related services, and regular education to work with children and youth with disabilities, and to ensure those personnel have the skills and knowledge to be successful serving those children. The estimated available funds for the competition are $1,600,000. Applications are due by April 13, 2020. Further information is available here.

New K-12 Bills

H.R.5854To authorize the Secretary of Education to make grants to eligible schools to assist such schools to discontinue use of a derogatory or discriminatory name or depiction as a team name, mascot, or nickname, and for other purposes. Sponsor:Rep. Pallone, Frank, Jr. [D-NJ-6]

Public Opinion Poll:The poll commissioned by NSBAC can be found by going to the NSBAC website at https://nsbac.org/. States are free to distribute or use information from the poll in newsletters or other means. We are in the process of finalizing the release of additional information and will get that to you as soon as we can.

Public Schools Week and Digital Learning Day: We want to remind everyone that Public Schools Week is from February 24 to 28, 2020 and Digital Learning Day is also during that week on Thursday, February 27, 2020. NSBA will doing advocacy and social media around both campaign events. We encourage states and local school board members to visit schools, issues proclamations, and participate in other ways around these two events to focus on local schools. NSBA will be focusing on specific topics each day and will provide additional information next week. You can learn more about Public Schools Week at https://learningfirst.org/publicschoolsweekand Digital Learning Day by visiting https://digitallearningday.org/.

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