Student Opportunity GapsTeacher Development

Senate Education Committees Review 3 Key Bills

By April 8, 2016 No Comments

The Senate E-12 and Higher Education Committees heard bills last week on loan forgiveness, debt service, and additional funding for intermediate school districts and other school cooperatives serving certain children with disabilities.

Loan Forgiveness

Senate’s Higher Education Chair Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) on Tuesday heard a bill that would fund the state’s newly created loan forgiveness program for teachers that was established last year. MREA Executive Director Fred Nolan testified in support.

SF2375, authored by Sen. Vicki Jensen (DFL-Owatonna). appropriates an unspecified amount to the program. The Office of Higher Education (OHE) is still in the process of rule-making, which will establish the criteria and application process for teachers to get their student loan payments reimbursed. Last year, $400,000 was appropriated, far short of the millions of dollars needs to successfully fund the program.

Teachers could start applying as early as this summer or fall.

The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in a supplemental higher education finance bill. MREA will continue to track and inform our members of any progress made on this front.

Debt Service

The Senate’s E-12 Chairman Chuck Wiger (DFL-Maplewood) on Wednesday heard a bill that would help further fund school facilities, building off from last year’s investments through debt service equalization. MREA is proud of the work we accomplished last year to help close the rural-metro equity gap on in this category.

Two bills presented Wednesday advance this work.

For consolidated districts, SF2236 would provide equalized revenue at 300 percent of the statewide adjusted net tax capacity equalizing factor. Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL-Kerrick) is the bill’s author.

SF2231 would provide additional investments for debt service equalization statewide for all schools. This bill is authored by Sen. Kevin Dahle (DFL-Northfield).

Both bills were laid over for possible inclusion in an education finance supplemental bill.

Students with Disabilities

The Senate E-12 Committee on Thursday heard a bill that would staff provide development funding for intermediate school districts and other school cooperatives serving certain children with disabilities and high needs.

Eligibility for this aid is limited to intermediate school districts and cooperative units that provide instruction in separate schools specific for students with disabilities.

Aid for staff development is equal to $1,000 times the number of full-time equivalent licensed instructional staff and non-licensed classroom aides.

According to the testimony and handouts provided between September 9th and March 3rd of this past year at Intermediate District #287 alone there were 178 staff injuries, 89 calls to police, and 36 ambulance transports for students with mental health incidents.

Rural communities are no different than the metro area in the need for many mental health services for many children. Staff and administrators at Intermediate school districts, Education Districts and Special Education Cooperatives that operate level 4 and higher programs are seeking need these resources to help train and retain staff who are working with students in great need of attention.

The stories are heart wrenching and our thoughts go out to the staff, students, and families in these situations.

SF2392 is authored by Sen. Greg Clausen (DFL-Apple Valley). The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in a supplemental higher education finance bill.