In the Senate
Senate E-12 Education Committee Chairman Chuck Wiger and other DFL senators talked to the press Wednesday about their education agenda for 2015. They highlighted seven education investment priorities:
- Technology funding to meet the needs of every classroom in the state. Sen. Wiger has authored bills (SF18, SF45 and SF78) drafted by the MSBA Government Relations team. We are pleased to see the Senate has identified technology funding as a priority for the state.
- School facilities reform. This will provide equity across the state when it comes to the maintenance and repair of school buildings. MSBA also testified in support of these bills (SF75 and SF76, authored by Sen. Kevin Dahle).
- Universal Early Education for four-year-olds. Sen. John Hoffman authored this proposal (SF6), which is similar to a provision in the Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget.
- Access to Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO). Sen. Greg Clausen’s Pathway to College proposal would expand the current PSEO program, which would allow more schools to implement dual enrollment programs.
- Eliminating non-academic barriers to learning. Sen. Alice Johnson, vice chair of the Education Finance Committee, is committed to eliminating non-academic barriers to learning by offering free school breakfast to all elementary-age students (SF344) and requiring comprehensive eye exams before children enter kindergarten (SF334). Gov. Dayton has also a similar provision in his budget.
- Increase student support services. A proposal by Sen. Susan Kent would expand student support services by providing school districts 50/50 state/local match for hiring counselors, psychologists, social workers, nurses and chemical dependence counselors.
- School Readiness Tax Credit. This initiative, authored by Sen. Melisa Franzen, would help lower the rising costs of childcare and extend a credit to businesses who seek to offer quality-rated child care support for their own employees. Once again, a version of this was included in the governor’s budget.
What is missing? The Senate DFL education package did NOT include additional dollars on the basic education formula, which is the highest priority for all of our school districts.
At the end of this month, legislators will use the February forecast to formulate the Senate and House spending budgets for FY2016-17. At that time, we will know how much the Senate spending target will be. Chair Wiger is hopeful that the state will be willing to invest $500 million in education.
Following the press conference, Gov. Dayton released this statement: “I commend the Senate Majority Caucus for its excellent legislative priorities. We have many shared goals, and I look forward to working with the Legislature to provide the resources and strategies our teachers and schools need to ensure all Minnesota students receive excellent educations.”
Noteworthy bill introductions
- In addition to two school facilities bills (SF75 and SF76) that would establish a longer-term facilities maintenance revenue program for all school districts and to equalize the capital projects referendum levy, Sen. Dahle introduced this week two more proposals (SF489 and SF490) which would enhance debt service equalization for school districts. These bills complete the key recommendations of the School Facilities Financing Working Group.
In the House
The House Education Finance Committee and the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee held a joint meeting Wednesday regarding Gov. Mark Dayton’s early care and early learning FY 2016-17 budget recommendations.
The Governor’s Children and Education Package includes expenditures from both education and health and human services budgets. Click here for the complete list of spending recommendations.
Noteworthy bill introductions
- Freshman legislator Rep. Drew Christensen introduced a bill (HF554) that would require a three-fifths vote by each body of the Legislature to reduce the school aid payment percentage below 90 percent.
- Rep. Bob Dettmer introduced HF498, a companion bill to Sen. Kent’s SF343, which would substantially impact physical education implementation. The bill would mandate two full years of physical education in high school, require assessments and change graduation requirements