Note: These responses were crafted in response to the SF 453 and SF 978 delete all omnibus bills moved by Committee Chairs Senator Wiger and Senator Torres Ray. MREA made every attempt to track all the amendments, but this may not be all inclusive. Click here to track this bill, but ignore the introductory version from February.
MREA supports the direction and the implementation particulars of the following aspects of SF 453:
- All Day K begins in FY15 at 1.0 PU weight—Excellent, universal all day K in MREA Platform
- Significant goal
- Significant investment
- Still a local decision to offer free full day every day kindergarten
- Equity Revenue change—a move in the right direction
- Directly addresses the 5th –95th gap with Enhanced Equity Revenue
- Equity Revenue is state aid in FY ’15 for up to $100 per pupil
- Net is $87 per pupil for the 37 school districts with zero voter approved operating referendums which is plus for the students in those school districts View the map with districts with zero referendum.
- General Education Levy on ANTC
- The state needs to have a general education levy mechanism in statute
- This is establishes the framework for a uniform system of taxation for schools
- Funds Basic Supplemental Revenue @ $56 per pupil in FY ’15. This is new revenue component and is approximately 1% of the basic formula.
- This essentially creates a 1% and 1% basic formula increase in SF 453.
- State takeover of three ANTC levies
- Operating Capital, Safe Schools and Equity become state aid rather than levy
- $150 m in property tax relief
- With debt service equalization currently so limited, this directly reduces ANTC levies in all districts
- Districts with potential bonding needs for deferred maintenance or new facilities should pay careful attention here. This will affect Pay ’14 taxes.
- Integration & Achievement revenue included in the bill
- Uses the work of the Task Force,
- Directs funds to districts with high populations of color, focus on achievement,
- Establishes floor funding at 63%for districts in the program
- Reduces a district’s revenue by 20% if it does not meet its achievement goals
- Cyrus and Morris school district consolidation—Excellent
- Permits two districts to orderly consolidate with local decision making
- With local investment
- Assessment Reform—Excellent
- Moves to a system that looks forward to where students are going, rather than where they have been,
- Does not put any artificial barriers in their career pathway. View the Issue Sheet to learn more.
- MTLE Reform—
- Allows teachers who successfully complete an approved licensing program to begin teaching with temporary licenses while taking the MTLE tests
- Presumably temporary licenses will apply to teachers coming from other states?
MREA supports the direction but urges further refinement of the implementation of the following aspects of SF 453:
- Formula gets 1% and 0%
- This will not keep up with inflation.
- This will make four of the past five years where school funding has fallen behind inflation. Read more about raising the target.
- Referendum Equalization
- 1st Tier increased to $538,200, an 13% increase in the equalization factor
- 2nd Tier decreased to $259,415, a 4% decrease in the factor
- Replaces $34 million in operating levy with state equalization
- Maximum benefit goes to homeowners in school districts with RMV/PU between $270,000 and $476,000 and $700 or more referendum amounts
- Skews the benefits away from the poorest districts to the somewhat more wealthy districts, wealthy districts above Tier 1 and districts without referendums see no benefits View the map on the effects on homeowners.
- Early Ed Scholarships $44 million:
- This is important need to be addressed.
- The March 15th and April 15th deadlines are very important for schools and providers in order to build capacity for quality early childhood.
- That capacity development is undone by line paragraph (c) line 143.35: “A scholarship recipient may choose any available program and is not required to enroll in a program with a predetermined number of slots.”
- We believe there needs to be a May 1 deadline for the recipient to commit to a provider so the provider knows they have students for the fall and can staff with confidence.
- Board Approved Operating Referendum Extension for districts with more than 2,000 students
- The voters have approved the referendum amount for 10 years
- Board extension adds stability to school funding
- The state average operating referendum is $1,000 per student
- There is NO increase in previously approved operating referendum levels in this section, therefore there is no rational basis to exclude part of the state from this policy change
- Recommend this be $400 statewide regardless of size of district
- Understand that passing this this policy, whether regional or state-wide, freezes a gap of $300 between the 37 districts with $0 referendum (with the equity revenue at $100) and the districts who can renew $400 in referendum revenue with board approval.
- Change in Pupil Weightings to simplify the formula
- K-6 @ 1.0
- 7-12 @ 1.2
- New base is $5687
- MREA advocates for a small increase in the formula allowance to $5,692 or $5,697, so the change in weightings itself is positive for all strata of public schools except for Minneapolis, St. Paul and charters Read more.
- School Lunch
- $.02 increase in state aid per lunch is helpful
- A requirement to requiring districts to provide students who are on reduced lunch a free class A lunch when the parent notifies the district that they cannot pay the reduced fee.
- This in effect creates a new class of free lunches with the potential for abuse and to create a hole in food service budgets
- There are other ways to resolve these difficult situations short of this open ended approach
- Safe Schools levy increased from $30/pupil to $32/pupil is woefully inadequate for the need.
MREA questions the direction of the following policy changes:
- Referendum Calculation Simplification
- This does simplify the formula, which is the stated goal of the Working Group.
- Philosophically, the recommendation puts educating students at the core of the formula, because the revenue raised is based on number of students actually served.
- The revenue would not “follow the students” because the revenue raised is based on the voter approved amount in the serving district.
- This recommendation does highlight a fundamental contradiction in Minnesota’s education system.
- State policy allows parents and students to choose the district in which to be educated, but
- State policy and practice rely on local voters voting to tax themselves for up to nearly one-fourth of the basic education costs to educate, presumably, the youth of their school district.
- MREA has concerns about districts being able to pass future referendums should this contradiction be resolved in favor of referendums funding students regardless of their district of residence. Read more