Fourth Week of Session: HEROs and Tax Cuts

HERO Pay Passes House

On Thursday the House passed HF2900, a bill that would give $1,500 payments to qualifying frontline workers who were employed during Minnesota’s peacetime emergency. School employees would qualify for this payment if they were employed for at least 120 hours between March 15, 2020 – June 30, 2021. The bill, which passed off the House floor with a 71-61 vote, now rests in the hands of the Senate.

Senate Tax Cuts Proposed

Last Thursday the Senate GOP announced plans to give back over $8 billion in tax cuts to Minnesotans. They’re targeting the state’s first tier income tax rate of 5.35%, proposing to reduce that to 2.85%. They’re also looking at a wholesale elimination of state incomes taxes applied to social security income.

February Budget Forecast Update – Monday 1:15pm

Monday afternoon MN Management & Budget will release an updated budget forecast, modifying the December figures showing a $7.7 billion surplus. It’s anyone’s guess which way the numbers will go, however, speculation last week was the numbers will decline as the Russian invasion of Ukraine impacts global markets and oil prices. Inflation estimates will impact the forecast as well. We’ll be tracking not just for the big-ticket figures, but any changes to the underlying assumptions in E-12 spending.

Last Week in Committee

House Education Discusses Student Achievement and Professional Development

On Wednesday the House Education Finance committee heard a presentation on the effects of remote learning and the pandemic on student achievement. Unsurprising, the hardest hit areas were students in high poverty schools, and elementary aged students. The biggest declines in student achievement were seen in math. Immediately after this presentation, Rep. Acomb presented her bill to the committee which would permanently fund the Minnesota Math Corps. After some positive testimony, the bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus bill.

The Education Finance committee also had their eye on some bills related to teacher training and professional development. Bills were heard that would fund training specifically for math, science, and social studies teachers. Additionally, the committee considered the House companion to Sen. Chamberlain’s LETRS bill. This proposal would provide grant funding for all K-5 Minnesota teachers to receive LETRS training. All bills were laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus bill.

Senate Education Considers Education Savings Accounts

As mentioned in the last briefing, the Senate GOP majority is once again proposing to fund and develop an Education Savings Accounts (ESA) program (a.k.a. vouchers). Chair Chamberlain strongly believes that the “money [should] follow the kid” and that an ESA system gives parents the maximum opportunity to provide the best education for their children. Again, following the Senate GOP theme of empowering parents. The ESA bill received harsh criticism and pointed questions from the minority senators on the committee. Sen. Kunesh, a former teacher, said that this bill would go against the legislature’s constitutional duty to fund public schools. She noted the loss of funding to schools wasn’t just what the state could have put into public education, but the loss of pupil unit driven revenue to local schools. SF1525 passed out of the committee and was referred to Senate Finance.

This Week in Education Committees

Senate Education – Literacy! Focus on Teacher Prep for Reading Instruction

Senate Education Chair Roger Chamberlain continues his steady drumbeat on the topic of literacy. The perceived or real lack of formal teacher prep on literacy instruction will be the focus on Monday’s Senate Education hearing.

SF1252 will be heard later in the week. This bill makes a small modification to the MSHSL governing board membership and how it’s determined.

House Education Policy – MDE Policy Bill

The House Education Policy continues a steady march of bills mandating school policy and staffing requirements. First up Monday afternoon is HF3401 is the MDE Policy bill, coming in at 119 pages and covering numerous topics. The bill includes changes to online learning provisions and adds a requirement for ethnic studies in the social studies curriculum. Here’s a link to a document listed the topics in the bill (Bob’s spreadsheet).

On Wednesday the committee reviews HF1808 and HF3634, both focused on student mental health. HF 1808 requires mental illness training for school counselors, and for each school building to have an FTE licensed counselor on site. HF 3624 requires mental health screening for students and creates revenue to fund mental health supports.

HF3265 modifies the required lead testing in schools, as well as the remediation requirements.

HF3655 requires public schools to provide substance misuse awareness and prevention instruction at least once to students in grades 6 – 8.

House Education Finance – Fund Transfers, Library Aid, and ASL Interpreter

House Education Finance has a more modest slate of bills up this week. Tuesday they review two ISD fund transfer bills, HF 2669 (Morrison) Independent School District No. 112, Eastern Carver County Schools; lease levy authorized for a transportation hub and HF 2117 (Hanson, J) Independent School District No. 191, Burnsville-Eagan-Savage; fund transfer authorized.

Wednesday the committee reviews a proposal to create a more equitable distribution of state funds to the state’s 12 regional public library systems, creating more fairness for the rural regional ibrary systems. HF1710 modifies the aid distribution for the regional public library system.

Thursday, the committee reviews HF1408, which modifies requirements for ASL interpreters, allowing for other pathways into ASL interpreter duties.