MSBA at the Capitol — Universal preschool bills stalls in House committee

In the House …

The House Education Policy Innovation Committee had a very full agenda Tuesday that brought the committee back after dinner to finish up work.

The committee concluded the discussion on the universal all-day preschool for four-year-olds proposal (HF 46, sponsored by Rep. Erin Murphy). After a failed vote to re-refer the bill to the House Education Finance Committee, the bill was tabled. Committee Chair Rep. Sondra Erickson noted that since there’s a similar provision in Gov. Dayton’s education budget proposals (HF 844), there will be future discussions on this topic.

Click here for related story from Session Daily: “Key committee rejects universal, all-day preschool.”

The committee quickly re-referred Rep. Dave Pinto’s HF 424 to the House Civil Law and Data Practices Committee. This bill would conform the state and federal definitions of directory information, helping districts provide seamless services through enhanced collaboration with community partners such as libraries. The companion bill (SF 337, Sen. Sandra Pappas) moved through Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, returning to Senate E-12 Division for possible inclusion in the education omnibus bill.

After a brief discussion, HF 672 (Rep. Sarah Anderson) — which would allow computer science courses to be credited toward fulfillment of a math credit requirement — was laid over in committee for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill.

Rep. Kelly Fenton’s proposal (HF 643) to allow the commissioner of education to contract with the Principals’ Leadership Institute to provide professional development programs for principals and other school leaders received a first hearing and was sent to the House Education Finance Committee as it appropriates dollars to offset participants’ costs.

After a recess, the committee continued the discussion on HF 982 (Rep. Dean Urdahl). This bill would require all Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) institutions to award full credit to a Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) student who receives postsecondary credit for completed postsecondary coursework at a MnSCU institution and then enrolls in a MnSCU institution — whether the same MnSCU institution or not — after leaving high school. The bill is on its way to the House Higher Education Committee.

Rep. Urdahl also brought forth a proposal that requires the Board of Teaching — in cooperation with MNSCU teacher preparation programs and the Office of Higher Education — to annually collect and report summary data on teacher preparation programs and outcomes and to post the summary data on a jointly hosted website. With limited discussion by committee members, the bill was passed and re-referred to House Education Finance Committee.

HF 727 (Rep. Anna Wills) would remove the restriction on postsecondary institutions to advertising the financial benefits of their PSEO courses only to those secondary students residing in a school district with 700 students or more in grades 10, 11 and 12. The bill was received with much support by the committee and was laid over for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill.

***

If you were in the House Finance Education Committee Tuesday you may have wondered “Is this the House Taxes Committee?” since we had Nina Manzi (House Taxes Legislative Analyst) in the committee and five tax-credit bills on the agenda.

Next questions: Why are these bills being heard in the House Education Finance Committee? Does the revenue required come out of education funding? Chair Rep. Jenifer Loon was very clear that the cost of these bills will NOT come out of the education target.

The five education tax-credit bills heard were:

  • HF 72 (authored by Rep. Sarah Anderson) — Education expense credit and deduction provided to apply to expenditures for prekindergarten expenses.
  • HF 245 (Rep. Dean Urdahl) — K-12 teachers who complete master’s degree in a content area directly related to their licensure field allowed tax credit, and money appropriated.
  • HF 359 (Rep. Linda Runbeck) — Reading tax credit expanded to include dyslexia.
  • HF 667 (Rep. Sarah Anderson) — K-12 expense credit modified, credit amount and income phaseout for the credit increased, and credit phase out threshold adjusted for inflation.
  • HF 798 (Rep. Jim Knoblach) — K-12 education expenses subtraction and credit modified; credit extended to tuition; subtraction and credit amounts increased; income phaseout for the credit increased; and credit, subtraction amount, and credit phaseout threshold adjusted for inflation.

Some lobbyists challenged Rep. Knoblach’s bill and its constitutionality because it extends an existing tax credit to tuition. Opponents believe this would violate the Constitution by providing state funds for private religious schools. Either way, all five bills are off to the House Taxes Committee.

In the Senate …

There were many bills heard Tuesday in the Senate Education Committee. Chair Sen. Chuck Wiger’s school readiness bill (SF 155) would increase aid for school readiness programs across the state by $5 million.

Steve KerrAnoka-Hennepin’s Executive Director of Community and Government Relations — applauded the school readiness model as a good framework for public policy.

Kerr continued his testimony with Anoka-Hennepin’s story, which includes 300 students enrolled in a very intensive four-year-old program. The key to success was to dig deep and find funding to provide transportation for every child. The headline: 90 percent of those kids are kindergarten-ready! In the world of education, that is beating the odds.

Sen. Melissa Wicklund brought forth a proposal to provide funding for the Works Museum (SF 442), which provides STEM programs to elementary-age children. The Works Museum is located in Bloomington and is requesting a $100,000 grant from the Legislature.

Sen. John Hoffman’s bill (SF 195) would aim to ensure quality economics instruction for all teachers by providing a grant for the Minnesota Council on Economic Education (MCEE). The MCEE’s mission is to train master teachers who will go back to their schools and train other teachers who will bring economics into classrooms to students. This proposal is a WIN-WIN-WIN for the state, teachers and students. MCEE’s request is for $500,000 for the biennium. To date, 30,000 teachers have benefitted from the work of MCEE.

Sen. Susan Kent brought forth SF 607, a bill that would provide funding for the Minnesota Reading Corps. The Reading Corps is a Minnesota-grown program that is in high demand. Sen. Kent is asking for $10 million over the biennium. “This program provides the greatest bang for the buck,” Sen. Kent said. “Their interventions get results — it is working.” This was evidenced in the reduction of special education referrals after the first wave of funding and identified through $9 million in savings.

Sen. Kent also brought forth a funding bill (SF 447) for the Minnesota Children’s Museum.

About mnmsba

The Minnesota School Boards Association, a leading advocate for public education, supports, promotes and strengthens the work of public school boards.
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