U.S. Secretary of Education approves Minnesota’s state plan for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act

Today, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), received a letter of approval from the U.S. Department of Education on Minnesota’s state plan for implementing ESSA. Minnesota’s plan places equity at its foundation, and outlines the values, goals and strategies that were established through two years of public input, at more than 300 public meetings, which many of you participated in. We want to thank you, once again, for your commitment to this work and your continued engagement in making our plan successful.
To see the final version of the plan, please visit the Minnesota State Plan page of the Minnesota Department of Education website. You can also see the approval letter from the U.S. Department of Education.
The work continues: join a stakeholder subcommittee
Although Minnesota’s state plan has been approved, there is still development outside of the plan in progress. Subcommittees are convening in the areas of School Recognition and Data Reporting. It’s not too late to join! We want to hear from educators, administrators, parents, community members, business people and other interested stakeholders.
More information, including how to sign up for a committee, is available online.
Questions? Email the ESSA team.

 

 

 

 

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ESSA Update: Minnesota submits revised state plan to U.S. Department of Education

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Source: Minnesota Department of Education

After receiving feedback from the U.S. Department of Education in December, the Minnesota Department of Education submitted an updated version of the Minnesota Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) state plan today.

The feedback letter from December is available on the U.S. Department of Education’s website. To see the changes that have been made to the plan, visit the Minnesota State Plan page of the Minnesota Department of Education website.

The U.S. Department of Education has until January 16 to approve the Minnesota state plan. A final version of the plan will be posted online upon approval.

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Minnesota receives positive feedback from the U.S. Department of Education on ESSA plan

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Source: Minnesota Department of Education

This week, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) received initial feedback from the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) regarding Minnesota’s plan to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The feedback was overall very positive. USDE had no questions on Minnesota’s decision-making process to identify schools for support and they noted that Minnesota’s plan had fewer requested clarifications in the accountability section of the plan than any other state plan that has been reviewed to date.

In addition to some more technical clarifications, USDE has asked MDE for clarification in two primary areas:

  • Clarify exit criteria for schools identified for comprehensive support and improvement (CSI). Among other exit criteria, Minnesota’s plan outlined that Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) schools that do not demonstrate improvement relative to their own performance would move to the Targeted Support and Improvement status. To ensure CSI schools continue receiving high levels of support and more rigorous interventions, schools that do not improve relative to themselves will continue to receive comprehensive support.
  • Clarify reporting of disproportionate rates of students from low-income families, students of color, and American Indian students taught by ineffective teachers. Minnesota defines an ineffective teacher as a teacher who is not meeting professional teaching standards, as defined in a local teacher development and evaluation system. MDE will revise the plan to clearly articulate requirements under World’s Best Workforce that districts examine and publically report percentages of low-income families, students of color, and American Indian students disproportionately taught by ineffective teachers. MDE will also provide supportive state statutory language that prohibits students from being taught by teachers on an improvement plan two years in a row. Finally, MDE will provide statewide data on the access low-income families, students of color, and American Indian students have to teachers with advanced degrees, which research has shown increases the effectiveness of teachers.

The full feedback letter is available on the U.S. Department of Education’s website at https://www2.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplan17/map/mn.html.

Minnesota has until January 3, 2018, to make edits to the plan or provide additional information to USDE. A final decision on the state plan approval will be made by USDE on January 16, 2018.

For more information on ESSA in Minnesota, visit the ESSA page of the MDE website at http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/dse/ESSA/index.htm.

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U.S. House expected to vote on tax reform bill on December 19

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Source: National School Boards Association

On Friday, December 15, the House-Senate Conference Committee report for H.R. 1, the proposed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), was filed. Both chambers are expected to vote on the legislation this week, with the House poised to vote on Tuesday, December 19.

The Joint Committee on Taxation’s preliminary budget estimate of the Conference Committee bill for H.R. 1 indicates that the measure would add $1.456 trillion to the federal deficit over Fiscal Years 2018-2027. H.R. 1 would expand education savings accounts to accommodate tax credits for private elementary and secondary education tuition payments up to $10,000.

The legislation would limit deductibility up to $10,000 for state and local tax payments (property, income and sales taxes). H.R. 1 would retain the current teacher tax deduction; and, would limit the ability of school districts and other units of state and local government to finance capital improvements and other operations through changes to municipal bond programs.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) and other groups representing public education and state and local governments have expressed opposition to the legislation because of its impact on our public school districts and related governmental services. As noted by The Washington Post, the “measure curtails the federal deduction for state and local taxes.

Advocates worry that states, counties and cities will have a tougher time raising money for schools — which get nearly all of their money from state and local tax revenues — because those taxes will no longer be fully deductible.”

Along with NSBA, the Association of School Business Officials International has dissented to the bill’s provision to end cost-effective, tax-free “advance refund bonds” that allow districts to refinance school bond debt at lower interest rates.

The following excerpts from the Conference Committee Report on H.R. 1 are applicable to the priorities NSBA has outlined.

Tuition Tax Credits for Non-Public Schools

Consolidation and modification of education savings rules — the conference agreement follows the Senate amendment.

The Senate amendment modifies section 529 plans to allow such plans to distribute not more than $10,000 in expenses for tuition incurred during the taxable year in connection with the enrollment or attendance of the designated beneficiary at a public, private or religious elementary or secondary school. This limitation applies on a per-student basis, rather than a per-account basis. Thus, under the provision, although an individual may be the designated beneficiary of multiple accounts, that individual may receive a maximum of $10,000 in distributions free of tax, 64 regardless of whether the funds are distributed from multiple accounts. Any excess distributions received by the individual would be treated as a distribution subject to tax under the general rules of section 529.

The provision also modifies the definition of higher education expenses to include certain expenses incurred in connection with a homeschool. Those expenses are (1) curriculum and curricular materials; (2) books or other instructional materials; (3) online educational materials; (4) tuition for tutoring or educational classes outside of the home (but only if the tutor or instructor is not related to the student); (5) dual enrollment in an institution of higher education; and (6) educational therapies for students with disabilities.

Effective date: The provision applies to distributions made after December 31, 2017.

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State and Local Tax Deductibility (SALT)

Modification of deduction for taxes not paid or accrued in a trade or business — Conference Agreement.

Present law Individuals are permitted a deduction for certain taxes paid or accrued, whether or not incurred in a taxpayer’s trade or business. These taxes are: … property taxes; (ii) State and local personal property taxes; … At the election of the taxpayer, an itemized deduction may be taken for State and local general sales taxes in lieu of the itemized deduction for State and local income taxes.

Under the provision a taxpayer may claim an itemized deduction of up to $10,000 ($5,000 for married taxpayer filing a separate return) for the aggregate of (i) State and local property taxes not paid or accrued in carrying on a trade or business, or an activity described in section 212, and (ii) State and local income, war profits, and excess profits taxes (or sales taxes in lieu of income, etc. taxes) paid or accrued in the taxable year. Foreign real property taxes may not be deducted under this exception. The above rules apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017, and beginning before January 1, 2026. … Thus, under the provision, an individual may not claim an itemized deduction in 2017 on a pre-payment of income tax for a future taxable year in order to avoid the dollar limitation applicable for taxable years beginning after 2017.

Effective date: The provision is effective for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2016.

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School (Municipal) Bonds

  • Repeal of advance refunding bonds (that allow districts to refinance debt service payments for school buildings and other purposes at a lower interest rates) — A refunding bond is defined as any bond used to pay principal, interest, or redemption price on a prior bond issue (the refunded bond). Generally, governmental bonds and qualified 501(c)(3) bonds may be advance refunded one time (under current law).
  • Repeal of tax credit bonds — Present law in general tax-credit bonds provide tax credits to investors to replace a prescribed portion of the interest cost. The borrowing subsidy generally is measured by reference to the credit rate set by the Treasury Department. Current tax-credit bonds include qualified tax credit bonds, which have certain common general requirements, and include new clean renewable energy bonds, qualified energy conservation bonds, qualified zone academy bonds (that have been used for school repairs and modernization as well as professional and curriculum development), and qualified school construction bonds (that were authorized for calendar years 2009 and 2010).

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Teacher Tax Deduction

Modification of deduction for educator expenses — the conference agreement retains the present-law above-the-line ($250) deduction and limit for certain expenses of eligible educators.

Present law in general, unreimbursed business expenses incurred by an employee are deductible, but only as an itemized deduction and only to the extent the expenses exceed two percent of adjusted gross income. However, in the case of certain employees and certain expenses, a deduction may be taken in determining adjusted gross income (referred to as an “above-the-line” deduction), including expenses of … eligible educators. Eligible educators are elementary or secondary school teachers, instructors, counselors, principals, or aides in a school for at least 900 hours during a school year. An eligible educator may take an “above-the-line” deduction for ordinary and necessary expenses incurred (1) by reason of participation in professional development courses related to the curriculum or students the educator teaches, or (2) in connection with books, supplies, computer and other equipment, and supplementary materials to be used in the classroom. The deduction may not exceed $250 (for 2017) in expenses, and is indexed for inflation.

Effective date: The provision is effective for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017. Conference Agreement

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U.S. House Education Committee approves PROSPER Act for reforms to higher education

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Source: U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce

WASHINGTON — Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), chairman of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee released the following statement upon the approval of H.R. 4508, the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act by the Committee on Education and the Workforce:

“When members of this committee set out not just to reauthorize, but to reform higher education policy, we knew this would be a long and difficult process, but we also knew that reforms approved by the committee in the PROSPER Act would ultimately foster a higher education system that works for the students and families of today and tomorrow.

“The PROSPER Act delivers the serious reforms needed to empower students and families to achieve an essential part of the American dream: earning a high-quality education, finding a good-paying job, and living a successful life.”

The bill was approved by a 23-17 vote.

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State assessment working group releases recommendations

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Source: Minnesota Department of Education

A variety of groups and organizations advise the Minnesota Assessment System — including the Future Assessment Design Working Group.

The Future Assessment Design Working Group met from January 2017 through October 2017 to discuss the design of future state assessments.

Access the group’s recommendations in the Future Assessment Design Working Group Report.

Denise Dittrich, MSBA’s Associate Director of Government Relations, serves on the Future Assessment Design Working Group.

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U.S. House Education Committee to mark up PROSPER Act

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Source: U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce

WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, December 12, at 9 a.m. (Central Time), the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), will mark up the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act (H.R. 4508).

Introduced by Chairwoman Foxx and Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), the legislation will bring reforms to support students in completing an affordable postsecondary education.

The markup will take place in Room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

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