By Sam Walseth, Director of Legislative Affairs
After months of gathering input and feedback from member districts, MREA approved a legislative platform for 2014 and beyond at the annual meeting held at the Annual Conference on November 19. The 2014 platform includes ongoing issues and some new ones stemming from the 2013 E-12 and Tax omnibus bills.
The 2013 session produced huge results for public education, but there is still work to be done in terms of closing the achievement gap and creating equity in the funding system. Closing the “donut hole” between Small Schools Revenue and Location Equity Revenue is a major priority for MREA heading into 2014.
Enhancing facilities funding for districts who don’t qualify for Alternative Facilities authority (all of rural Minnesota) is unfinished business from the major formula reform efforts from last session. The inequity between facilities funding for the 25 largest districts in the Alternative Facilities program and everyone else is an eye-popping 5:1 ratio. Alternative Facilities districts spend an average of $2.79 per square foot on deferred maintenance while everyone else spend $0.58 per square foot. Look for more information on this topic as an MDE hosted task force on facilities concludes its work in January.
MREA’s platform also calls on the state to relax mandates where possible including the perennial issue of local control over the school calendar and emerging issues related to the newly created “World’s Best Workforce” statute. We heard from our members who suggested allowing schools to get reimbursed for summer programs developed with local businesses designed to improve career readiness and vocational skills.
The platform also calls on the state to create flexible licensure programs and to ease back on recent teacher licensure regulations. Teacher licensure is sure to be a hot topic at the Capitol once again when another MDE hosted task force on this subject submits recommendations to the legislature next February.
MREA is a grassroots advocacy organization that maintains a solid presence at the Capitol during legislative sessions. However, achieving success on our legislative agenda depends on local leaders engaging with their legislators to make sure they know these issues are important to their communities.
We need all district superintendents, board members and teacher leaders to meet with their legislators between now and Feb. 25 when the legislature goes back into session so they hear locally first about the importance of these issues. Be sure to thank your legislators for a great 2013 E-12 bill before starting on new requests, but please take time to meet with them and discuss the issues raised in our platform as they look to 2014 and beyond. View the legislative platform for 2014.