MREA announced today its platform of the key education issues for the 2016 Legislative session.
MREA members approved the platform at the annual business meeting on Nov. 16. The platform comes from months of grassroots input, research and reflection on how to keep us positioned to be effective in the legislative process. Anticipating that property tax reductions will be a focal point of tax cut discussion during the 2016 session, the MREA platform leads off with a focus on how to address rural school facility needs.
The MREA platform 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 known as Ag2School.
MREA also seeks 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.
Improved state support for school facilities ties into several political agendas spanning property tax relief and early childhood support in addition to helping rural economies with continued private sector construction work. We see this a win-win-win area for politicians of all stripes. View Platform on Facility Fallout
Teacher Recruitment & Retention
Teacher Recruitment and Retention has emerged as a statewide challenge. 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 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.
MREA provides suggestions for the legislature to address this behemoth of an issue. View Platform on Teacher Recruitment and Retention
Expanding early childhood education can be accelerated across the state with significant, flexible dollars going out to each school district. Allowing communities to design programs that meet family needs through mixed delivery models is a pragmatic way of expanding one of the more research driven, evidence-based strategies for closing the achievement gap.
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. View Platform on Early Learning
Minnesota can strengthen rural communities by expanding broadband access and 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. View Platform on Broadband
Your time spent with your local legislators is crucial, especially leading up to the March 8 start of the 2016 session. While there are always local issues to raise with your legislators, MREA encourages you to keep the MREA platform as part of your discussions with them to advance education interests in 2016.