By Sam Walseth, MREA Director of Legislative Action
This week the House and Senate Education committees are reviewing proposed legislation on the topics of early childhood education, school facilities and technology.
Senate E-12 on Wednesday morning will review SF 6 calling for state reimbursement to schools providing four-year old preschool education. Later that day the House Education Finance committee will take testimony from organizations interested in early childhood education.
The Senate DFL appears poised to advance a school-based, licensed teacher approach to expanding early childhood education. The Minneminds coalition is expected to continue a strong lobbying effort to put more money into scholarships. The House GOP’s plans for early childhood are unclear.
MREA has been working to advance the notion of using the School Readiness program (124D.15) as a way to build quality early learning capacity for low-income children. A general education allowance expansion to four year olds is one method to build out a preschool system and would allow early learning dollars currently being spent on four year olds to move into earlier years.
Another question MREA aims to put before the legislature is this: Is it the job of the E-12 budget target to pay for more than just early education opportunities? Within the confines of the traditional legislative budget targets, the Health & Human Services budget pays for child care assistance and home visiting programs.
Scholarships covering a broad range of early childhood services may be mission creep for the typical E-12 budget target. Furthermore, the E-12 budget can more effectively and efficiently drive early learning dollars through schools to build statewide capacity for low-income children. Learn more about Early Learning and MREA’s position.
Legislators are interested in understanding what schools offer for early learning programs. Take this week’s hearings on the subject as an opportunity to send them some information on what you’re offering early learners and their families.
School Technology & Facilities
Th Senate E-12 Committee on Tuesday will hear a series of bills dealing with school technology funding.
- SF 78 would add $6 million a year to the school telecommunications equity access program. These funds help many rural districts pay for higher costs for broadband access.
- SF 20 would dedicate future revenue generated from the Permanent School Trust Fund to technology uses only.
- SF 45 would increase the amount of operating capital revenue to schools.
- SF 18 would create new technology program for schools.
Senate E-12 Committee on Thursday will hear SF 75 & 76, authored by Sen. Kevin Dahle (DFL Northfield).
- SF 76 would expand the alternative facilities program to all school districts as recommended by the School Facilities Task Force (report recommendation #1).
- SF 75 would increase the equalization granted to operating capital levies granted through a referendum process. MREA will be testifying in support of both bills, with SF 76 as our top priority for this session.
Learn more about the Facility Fallout and follow it on Twitter at #FacilityFallout.
The energy efficiency of school facilities is an emerging issue that could find its way into the debate over school facility financing this session. Environmental groups are considering pushing the state to include requirements for energy efficiency in state and local government buildings. MREA has been invited to a meeting on this topic and will keep a close eye on what these groups want to propose.
The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) will present to the House Education Innovation Committee on Tuesday morning on regional centers, special education, and World’s Best Workforce. The committee will take testimony Thursday from education organizations, including MREA. MREA will bring up the Quiet Crisis of Teacher Shortages, Balancing Local Control and State Accountability, and policy changes to expand opportunities for students and close gaps. MREA Platform 2015 Final for details.