MREA traveled the state through the fall and heard from Greater Minnesota schools. Now it’s time to focus our collective voice on behalf of rural students as the 2016 legislative session approaches. The MREA Board of directors recommends the following platform for member approval at the annual meeting at the 2015 MREA Annual Conference on Nov. 17. View the proposed platform.
The proposed platform focuses on both key short-term and long-term issues facing Greater Minnesota schools. It hones in on four key issues:
- Facility Fallout
- Teacher Recruitment and Retention
- Early Learning
- Concurrent Enrollment
MREA Director of Legislative Affairs Sam Walseth will talk more about what the 2016 session is shaping up to be and how the proposed platform fits into the big picture during a general session at 4:30 pm on Nov. 16 at the MREA Annual Conference.
Continuing with the exemplary work of MDE’s Facility Task Force and recommendations, MREA sees opportunities in the 2016 session to address the state’s share of school bond payments in two areas.
First, MREA asks the state to reduce high agricultural taxes for school building bonds while protecting homeowner and business property taxes through a targeted, on-going, bond credit program we’re calling Ag2School. Second, MREA asks the state to equalize homeowner tax effort for school facility bonds by enhancing Debt Service Equalization factors and fixing them to a fixed percent of state average ANTC.
Teacher Recruitment and Retention
Teacher recruitment and retention has emerged as a statewide problem. Rural schools are not alone in their struggle to find and retain qualified staff to fill teaching positions in almost every academic and service discipline we need to offer students. MREA believes the state can help Greater Minnesota schools attract candidates into the profession with loan forgiveness and maintaining a stable, defined benefit retirement plan.
Additionally, the state can assist regional efforts with one-time start up funding aimed at teacher education programs for paraprofessionals and mid-career professionals. Last, but not least, is breaking down and streamlining the burdensome hurdles to licensure. We have suggestions for the legislature to address this behemoth of an issue.
The concept of a seamless system of P-20 education doesn’t just have to be a nice idea. It can be turned into action by further investing in school-based early learning opportunities and ensuring that transition efforts to post-secondary education are maintained. The Higher Learning Commission’s mandate that concurrent enrollment teachers have 18 master’s level content credits is a serious wake-up call and we need to make sure our P-20 partnerships are effective at addressing gaps in the system.
Lastly, Greater Minnesota schools need to the state to continue efforts in closing technology gaps in the state of education. School and community telecommunications access is ever more important and failure to address this will leave an unacceptable opportunity gap for thousands of rural students.