Monday, March 19, 2018

Whirlwind!  The pace has picked up over the past week.  Bills are still being introduced in droves, committees are meeting into the night, and the Governor released his budget recommendations.  The Governor's budget recommendations are the starting point for the serious fiscal negotiations that will be taking place over the next two months.  The Governor has put forward a fairly aggressive investment for the coming fiscal year (FY 19), although it appears he come in lower than the Senate's recommendation (of course, all is in flux).  Where the Governor differs from the Senate is in the revenue he commits to the next biennium in the form of increased schools safety revenue, increased special education revenue, and in making the School Readiness Plus program that was passed last session permanent.  The School Readiness Plus program was slated to be sunset after FY 19 per the agreement reached at the end of the 2017 Legislative Session.  The uptick in the February budget forecast along with the Governor's recommendation to not fully conform with Federal income tax changes and produce a revenue cushion in the process.  I have oversimplified the Governor's approach on taxes and the details have yet to be released, but it appears that additional revenue will be available through several means beyond the rosier budget forecast.

As it stands right now, it looks like the Senate will be putting more revenue into the current fiscal year than the Governor, but again, it's too early to tell for certain.  Senator Carla Nelson's SF 2754 proposes to put about $80 million into flexible school safety revenue for the coming fiscal year with no money committed beyond that.  The Legislature's contention is that next year will be a budget year and that committing heavily into the next biennium for any purpose would reduce budget flexibility and the opportunity to put money into efforts like increased funding for special education or an increase in the basic formula.

The House has yet to commit revenue to anything and they may be waiting until their tax bill takes shape before coming forward with a fleshed out budget proposal.  One thing all parties have agreed to adopt is the pension bill which will solve the TRA issue that has been left to fester over the past few years.  Under the plan, the employer share will go up by 1.25% (1/4 percent per year for five years) with the state picking up the tab through the pension subtraction in the general education formula).  The employee share will go up by 0.25% in 2024.

Here is a link to the Governor's press document on the budget proposal for FY 19.  Excellent Educations for Minnesota Students

Bill Introductions

Senate--Thursday, March 15

SF 3433--Draheim--Authorizes transportation for certain pregnant teens.

SF 3435--Housley--Requires Minnesota State High School League to adopt rules relating to youth hockey.

SF 3436--Wiger--Appropriates money to Minnesota Literacy Council to upgrade Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment.

SF 3439--Nelson--Clarifies district authority to implement competency-based courses and programs.

SF 3470--Clausen--Prohibits public employers from reducing compensation of members of Professional Educators Licensing and Standards Board.

SF 3741--Clausen--Authorizes school districts to use Long Term Facilities Maintenance Revenue for building safety improvements.

SF 3742--Clausen--Increases safe schools levy and links portion of levy available to intermediate school districts to increases in the basic formula.

Monday, March 19

SF 3516--Nelson--Requires that a portion of voluntary prekindergarten recipients to be served through a mixed delivery system.

SF 3572--Chamberlain--Requires dyslexia screening in early grades.

SF 3591--Wiklund--Requires school boards to have a policy on student deaths.

SF 3592--Cwodzinski--Increases student transportation revenue.

SF 3606--Dziedzic--Requires a counselor in every school.

SF 3608--Kiffmeyer--Increases referendum and debt service equalization.

SF 3626--Dibble--Fully funds voluntary prekindergarten program.


Thursday, March 15

HF 3870--Peterson--Requires that a portion of voluntary prekindergarten recipients to be served through a mixed delivery system.

HF 3879--Lee--Appropriates money for after-school and STEM programming.

HF 3880--Hortman--Allows individuals promoting skilled industries access to secondary students.

HF 3881--Loon--Modifies formula for calculating transportation aid for students in Post-Secondary Enrollment Options.

HF 3882--Neu--Requires that students in online learning courses be allowed to be in school building during regular school hours.

HF 3883--Slocum--Appropriates money for study of differences between charter schools and school districts.

HF 3884--Theis--Provides a complaint procedure for certain school dismissals.

HF 3885--Christensen--Appropriates money for school security audits.

HF 3886--Lueck--Authorizes online learning providers to generate 
online learning aid for courses offered to nonpublic pupils.

HF 3887--Moran--Appropriates money to Minnesota Literacy Council to upgrade Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment.

HF 3888--Howe--Allows patriotic organizations to encourage student participation.

HF 3902--Dettmer--Increases board-approved referendum authority.

Monday, March 19

HF 3971--McDonald--Increases referendum and debt service equalization.

HF 3990--Kunesh-Podein--Reestablishes January 15 teacher bargaining deadline.

HF 3991--Peterson--Modifies innovation research zone pilot project.

HF 4002--Runbeck--Requires school districts to adopt student mobile device policies.

HF 4015--Peterson--Authorizes school districts to use Long Term Facilities Maintenance Revenue for building safety improvements.

HF 4025--Bliss--Broadens the natural disaster debt service 
equalization aid program to assist school districts with a high percentage of property excluded from the tax rolls.

House Releases Education Policy Bill.  The House Education Innovation Policy will spend the next couple of days presenting and entertaining amendments on their 2018 omnibus education policy bill.  Here is a link to HF 3315 as it will be presented to the committee tomorrow:  HF 3315

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Afternoon Committee Wrap-Up.  Wednesday features two education-related committee meetings.  At 1 PM, the House Education Finance Committee met and discussed several bills related to special education.  Foremost among these was Representative Marion O'Neill's HF 2877, which would provide a special education aid adjustment to the Monticello school district to defray a very puzzling and unfair shortfall to which the district has been subjected.  Determining how the shortfall came to be requires a compass and a Swiss Army knife to cut through the complexity and find one's way out of the woods, but basically, Monticello was once the fiscal host to a special education cooperative that was forced to convert to a joint powers agreement and in that process, some legitimate costs that were reported got lost in the shuffle, making a considerable dent in the amount of revenue Monticello received through the special education formula.  It does have to be mentioned that Monticello was changing its special education governance structure in the same time frame as the implementation of a new special education formula, which also adds to the complexity.  What is frustrating to Monticello staff is that they performed the reporting in the manner prescribed by the Minnesota Department of Education and were assured that additional money would be there as a result.  Alas, not the case.  Testifying on behalf of Monticello were business manager Tina Burkholder and former superintendent (and current St. Cloud State professor) Jim Johnson.  The bill calls for a aid adjustments of $200,000 per year for fiscal years 2020 through 2023 (a total of $800,000).

The committee also heard Representative Drew Christensen's special education task force bill--HF 2846--and Representative Linda Runbeck's HF 3013.  HF 3013 would require teachers renewing their licenses to receive training toward implementing strategies to help students suffering from dyslexia.

The Senate Education Finance Committee convened at 3 PM.  The Monticello squad reprised its testimony from the House in supporting Senator Bruce Anderson's companion to HF 2877, SF 2522.  The committee also heard from the College Board on the Khan Academy and the PSAT/SAT tests.  The day was rounded out with further discussion of Senator Carla Nelson's SF 2754, the school safety bill that would provide additional aid to school districts for facility and personnel upgrades related to school safety.

Bill Introductions (Not Even the State of the State Address can stop the Continuing Onslaught)


SF 3268--Eichorn--Modifies innovation research zone pilot project.

SF 3302--Kent--Provides a complaint procedure for certain pupil dismissals.

SF 3312--Relph--Clarifies immoral character or conduct by a teacher.

SF 3315--Eichorn--Requests Legislative Auditor to compare revenue generation and spending between school districts and charter schools.

SF 3335--Ruud--Authorizes online learning providers to generate 
online learning aid for courses offered to nonpublic pupils.

SF 3338--Bigham--Resurrects January 15 teacher negotiation deadline.

SF 3340--Pappas--Increases funding for Grow Your Own teacher preparation programs.

SF 3343--P. Anderson--Modifies definition of a textbook.

SF 3351--Rest--Requires budget forecast surplus to be dedicated to reducing special education cross-subsidy.

SF 3353--Franzen--Appropriates money for after-school and summer STEM programming.

SF 3368--P. Anderson--Authorizes fund transfer for Minnetonka School District.

SF 3369--P. Anderson--Authorizes additional facilities levy for Hopkins School District.

SF 3370--P. Anderson--Creates process by which district and charter school programs may be combined.


HF 3739--Erickson--Provides for an academic balance policy.

HF 3796--Loon--Authorizes Commissioner of Education to award school safety facility grants to school districts.

HF 3797--Haley--Increases safe schools revenue and equalizes the safe schools levy.

Interesting Article from The New Republic.  It seems like every day a national magazine publishes an article related to education, especially in the wake of the Parkland tragedy.  Here's the latest from The New Republic.  Be forewarned:  left-leaning.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Here Comes the Night (Meetings).

Van Morrison and Them weren't singing, but there was a very long line of witnesses on a very long list of bills and it would have been nice to have Van (or a Van Morrison impersonator) croon a bit between committee meetings.  There were three committee meetings today, starting with the House Education Innovation Policy Committee.  With the first committee deadline a mere week away, the agendas are getting stuffed to capacity and the House Education Innovation Policy Committee couldn't complete its full agenda during its morning session and had to reconvene at 4:00 PM.  They then met until 8:00 PM.

The bill that generated the most testimony today was HF 3178, a bill authored by Representative Roz Peterson in the House (and SF 2816 authored by Senator Roger Chamberlain in the Senate--more on that later).  HF 3178 seeks to streamline the current Minnesota Department of Education school accountability framework and move back toward a five-star rating system.  The rating system proposed in the bill would consider multiple measurements, making it more sophisticated than the previous school report card that devolved into "accountability on a stick" that was passed out at the State Fair.  

There's no question that the current school accountability system is on the complex side of things.  The state collects a ton of data and it doesn't always present that data in a manner that is easily digestible by parents.  That was evident from the testimony of a number of parents.  At the same time, I think it's important to remember H.L. Mencken's admonishment that "For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."  

The parents that testified in the House this morning went over to the Senate this afternoon and testified on the aforementioned SF 2816--the Senate companion to HF 3178--in the Senate Education Policy Committee.  The discussion was similar to that in the House as it was spirited and compelling.  The challenge will be to meet the goals of accuracy and simplicity.  Schools themselves are collections of very unique learners and not all schools are blessed with the same levels of physical, fiscal, and personnel resources.  Trying to cram all of these differences into a single unadorned document may be too much to ask.  This is an debate to watch for the remainder of the session.

The other bill that sparked considerable debate in the House committee was HF 1507, Representative Eric Lucero's bill that would govern access to student's online activity.  Representative Lucero has been working on this bill for four years.  One of the primary goals of the bill is to protect students from vendors of educational products that the school may be using.  As everyone knows, sign up for anything on the internet and you've got a friend--heck, many friends--for life.

The House Education Finance Committee dealt with two extended time bills, one being Representative Bennett's bill that was heard in the House Education Innovation Policy Committee last week that would allow extended time revenue to be used for career and technical education electives offered outside the regular school day.  The other extended time bill is authored by Representative Carlos Mariani and would allow extended time revenue to be used to educate students in correctional institutions.  Representative Mariani's bill to increase the English learner funding formula was also heard.

In addition to SF 2816, the Senate Education Policy Committee heard Senator Eric Pratt's SF 3243, which would allow Long Term Facilities Maintenance Revenue to be used for school safety improvements.  Unlike Representative Loon's bill that expands the allowable uses of Long Term Facilities Maintenance Revenue that doesn't increase to total revenue allowance, Senator Pratt's bill proposes to add $100 per pupil to the system for the fiscal years 2020 through 2027.

Another bill of interest--SF 2900--came from the brainchild of Jordan superintendent (and SEE member) Dr. Matt Helgerson.  As Jordan superintendent, Helgerson has been thinking about conducting fire drills in a way that does not require students to leave the building.  A number of school shootings have taken place after a perpetrator (or accomplice) trips a fire alarm, with the shooting taking place after students have left the building.  School districts must conduct five fire drills during the year and SF 2900 would allow districts to have alternative drills where students don't leave the building for three of them.  Great thinking from Matt.

Monday, March 12, 2018

First Day of Regional Meetings.  SEE launched its mid-session set of regional meetings today with a spirited discussion at the Grounds Restaurant in Cokato this morning.  I urge all SEE members to get out to these regional meetings to share their perspectives as the Legislature comes up on its committee deadlines over the next two weeks.  There are a lot of things to discuss and SEE staff needs member input to make certain the organization's mission is served as decisions are made.

Senate Education Finance Committee Meets.  School safety was the order of the day in the Senate Education Finance Committee.  The hearing was similar to the one held in the House Education Finance Committee last week at which the School Safety Center and the Department of Homeland Security testified.  After those presentations, attention turned to SF 2754, Senator Carla Nelson's bill to provide school districts with additional revenue to augment their current school safety operations and upgrades.  Unlike HF 3320, which expands the eligible uses of Long Term Facilities Maintenance Revenue to include improvements to school safety.  As I testified last week (and reiterated today), the problem with that approach is that a great number of school districts have already made commitments with their Long Term Facilities Maintenance Revenue leaving them with little in the way of new revenue to funnel toward safety improvements.  Further, the approach of HF 3320 only deals with buildings and not with increased personnel who may help promote school safety within buildings.  SF 2754 gives districts flexibility in determining what their most pressing safety needs are and using the increased revenue to at least partially meet those needs.

Bill Introductions


SF 3213--Carlson--Amends provisions relating to absence from school for religious observance.

SF 3229--P. Anderson--Authorizes school districts to use Long Term Facilities Maintenance Revenue for school safety improvements.

SF 3233--Clausen--Modifies coursework requirement for a Tier 3 teachers license.

SF 3234--Clausen--Makes technical changes related to teacher licensure.

SF 3235--Clausen--Extends timeline to implement tiered licensure.

SF 3239--B. Anderson--Modifies exemptions for compulsory attendance law.

SF 3243--Pratt--Authorizes school districts to use Long Term Facilities Maintenance Revenue for school safety improvements and creates supplemental aid program to pay a portion of the costs.

SF 3255--Eaton--Provides a grant for substance misuse prevention.

SF 3260--B. Anderson--Indexes referendum equalizing factors.

SF 3263--P. Anderson--Strengthens Increase Teacher of Color Act.


HF 3594--Koznick--Strengthens Increase Teacher of Color Act.

HF 3595--Wills--Authorizes school districts to use Long Term Facilities Maintenance Revenue for school safety improvements.

HF 3597--Daniels--Allows teachers to obtain a Tier 3 license without passing a basic skills test.

HF 3599--Wills--Increases Safe Schools Levy.

HF 3600--Loon--Directs Legislative Auditor to study differences in funding between school districts and charter schools.

HF 3658--Wagenius--Funds voluntary prekindergarten program.

HF 3665--Lohmer--Requires display of national motto in school buildings.

HF 3668--Mariani--Extends timeline to implement tiered licensure.

HF 3675--Wagenius--Provides grants to school districts for solar energy systems.

HF 3676--Jessup--Creates reimbursement grants for school safety audits.

HF 3692--Jessup--Requires screening for dyslexia.

HF 3697--A. Carlson--Requires school board policy on student deaths.

HF 3718--Bly--Appropriates money for students in alternative programs.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Mr. DeMille, I'm Ready for my Close-Up.  Ran into a fellow congregant this morning in church and they said "Hey, I saw you on television."  Sure enough, KSTP/KSTC put a snippet of my testimony on HF 3320--Representative Loon's bill that would expand the eligible uses of Long Term Facilities Maintenance Revenue to include school safety upgrades-- on their Tuesday evening (March 6) newscast.  I couple more "be-deep, be-deeps" and I would have done a pretty good a pretty good Porky Pig imitation.  Anyway:  Lights, camera, action!  Here is a link to the video.

Video:  Dayton Readies Plan to Fund School Safety Improvements

The Value of Civics.  Whatever side of the gun debate one is one, I thought this story from the left-leaning The Washington Monthly (which is pretty anti-gun) provides a pretty good example of how the teaching of civics can help people engage the political sphere effectively.  Interesting viewpoint.

Link:  Why are Parkland Students So Articulate? Because They Were Taught Civics in Middle School

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Full Day of Committees.  Tuesday and Thursday are the days with wall-to-wall education-related committee meetings and thank goodness I can wedge in lunch.  The morning started with the House Education Innovation Policy covering a number of bills.  A fair amount of time was dedicated to bills authored by Representative Brian Daniels and Representative Pat Garofalo that would give priority to local applicants to two charter schools.  Representative Daniels represents the Nerstrand Charter School and Representative Garofalo represents the Castle Rock Charter School.  These two charter schools were established in some sense (but not exclusively) to give local residents an opportunity to have what amounts to a neighborhood school.  However, demand for these schools has increased, which may force some students who hail from Nerstrand or Castle Rock to go to a different school.  These bills would assure that residents of those two small towns would have preferential treatment in placement in the local charter school.

Representative Peggy Bennett presented one of the more interesting bills I have seen yet this session.  Under Representative Bennett's HF 3190, the funding category of extended time revenue could be used to provide career and technical education outside the school day and school year.  Extended time revenue has generally been used to help students who are falling behind academically to get to grade level in reading and math, but the Fairmont School District has established a weekend and summer welding class that gives students an introduction to welding and also provide instruction to adults who are changing careers.  Fairmont Superintendent Joe Brown, his staff, and several students did an excellent job showing how the current school day/school year framework prevents a number of students from taking elective courses.  Using extended time revenue to provide those electives would be a very innovative way of getting more programming (and not just career and technical programming) in front of students.  I have no idea if the Legislature will nod in this direction in 2018, as there is a price tag attached to the bill.  The price would not be prohibitive, but it doesn't appear that the Legislature will be opening the wallet too wide this session.

The Governor's education policy bill--HF 3315--was also presented.  While the bill is non-controversial for the most part, there are a couple of possible problems.  Most notably is language that would prevent school districts from denying lunch to students whose lunch accounts are in arrears.  This is a fairly straightforward goal, but the language as drafted could be interpreted to mean that students who are in arrears in any fee could not be prevented from participating in the activity for which the fees are intended.  More to come on this.  

The House Education Finance Committee also heard Representative Bennett's HF 3190 and Superintendent Brown and company did well in both games of their doubleheader.  Also up in the committee was Representative Urdahl's HF 3093, which would expand the tuition tax credit for teachers to include teachers who were working on a master's level special education license.

The committee day ended with spirited discussion in the Senate Education Policy Committee.  After covering two relatively non-controversial bills, the committee dove into Senator Carla Nelson's SF 2487.  The genesis of this bill seems to stem from the controversy surrounding Edina's "All for All" curriculum that some believe indoctrinates students and is overly centered on the concept of white privilege as the cause of a number of societal ills (although there have been complaints by parents and students from other districts about the nature of similar curricula and how it is delivered).  I have linked Center for the American Experiment Fellow Katherine Kersten's article from last October once again as a frame of reference to one side of the complainants in this debate.

Racial identity policies are ruining Edina's fabled schools

Bill Introductions.


SF 3026--Goggin--Provides grants for water safety instruction.

SF 3030--Hoffman--Appropriates money for Girls in Action.

SF 3031--Hoffman--Requires child safety instruction.

SF 3038--Kent--Limits length of state assessments.

SF 3040--Housley--Increases transportation revenue.

SF 3049--P. Anderson--Clarifies qualified providers of mental health services for innovative mental health grants to intermediate school districts.

SF 3061--Hall--Requires posting of national motto "In God We Trust" in school buildings.

SF 3068--Ruud--Appropriates money for school safety audits.

SF 3085--Chamberlain--Clarifies responsibility for the transportation of certain homeless students.

SF 3086--Pratt--Governor's Education Policy Bill.

SF 3091--Cwodzinski--Requires reporting on civics test questions.

SF 3125--Dahms--Expands use of extended time revenue to pupils enrolled in career and technical education courses.


HF 3529--McDonald--Expands tax exemption for charter school property.

HF 3533--Haley--Amends safe schools revenue to include medication disposal costs.

HF 3540--Sandstede--Addresses school safety and student support.

HF 3544--Theis--Provides grants to water safety instruction.

HF 3545--Sundin--Requires child safety curriculum.

HF 3547--Kresha--Appropriates money for a teacher preparation program leading to a license to teach the blind or visually impaired.

HF 3586--Hamilton--Amends provisions related to absence from school for religious observance.

HF 3587--Peterson--Provides for nonexclusionary pupil disciplinary policies and practices.

HF 3588--Lueck--Appropriates money to the Legislative Coordinating Commission to study feasibility of a program to authorize school districts borrowing from the permanent school fund.

HF 3589--Urdahl--Requires reporting on civics test questions.

HF 3590--Lee--Clarifies definition of a teacher.

HF 3591--Dettmer--Increases transportation revenue for school districts.

HF 3592--Pugh--Authorizes a fund transfer for Minnetonka School District.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Wednesday Report.  Wednesday morning allows for a little catching up as there are no education-related committee hearings until the early afternoon when the House Education Finance Committee meets.  That committee spent its time discussing the various programs that make up community education and heard Representative Cheryl Youakim's HF 625, a bill that would increase the community education revenue program by $2.25 per resident.  Currently, a district's community education revenue equals the greater of $5.42 times 1,335 or $5.42 times the district's total population.  HF 625 would increase the $5.42 multiplier to $7.67.  You may want to check out the House Education Finance Home Page.  In the right hand column, you will see all of the documents that were distributed at today's meeting and these documents provide a great description of the community education programs and how they are funded.  House Education Finance staff does an excellent job of getting these documents online for each committee meeting, so check back there often if you see a bill or subject that you have an interest in.

House Education Finance Committee Home Page

The Senate Education Finance Committee spent its second consecutive hearing on character education, hearing from a variety of groups promoting it.  With all the talk about guns and building security in the wake of the Parkland tragedy, not nearly enough has been said about school environment and the necessity to build healthy and resilient student bodies.  Hopefully, this discussion will help school districts develop ways to reach that elusive goal.

Governor Releases School Safety Package.  A day after the House unveiled its plan to expand the uses of Long Term Facilities Maintenance Revenue, Governor Dayton released a set of proposals that aim to provide school districts with greater resources along with flexibility to address school security needs, both in terms of building improvements and additional personnel.

Here is an outline of the Governor's plan:

Equalize and increase the safe schools levy. This proposal would do following 4 things:

· In FY19 only, it would provide all school districts and charter schools $18 per pupil in Safe Schools Aid for the same purposes currently identified as an allowable use under the safe schools levy statute. School districts would be guaranteed to receive at least $22,500 from the sum of the aid and the existing levy.

· In FY20 and beyond:
  • It would double the Safe Schools Revenue allowance from $36 per pupil to $72 per pupil and create a minimum revenue amount for school districts of $30,000.
  • It would equalize the levy at 60% of the state average ANTC/pupil unit. This would give low tax base districts access to this revenue.
  • Charter schools would receive $36 per pupil in Safe Schools Aid. The levy and aid must be spent on items identified in the safe schools levy statute including: facility enhancements, costs for school counselors, peace officers, and crime and drug abuse prevention.

Pupil Fair Dismissal Act. Proposal includes:

· Additional requirements on services such as mental health services and threat assessments. Clarifying a district’s and charter school’s obligation to provide alternative education services, including when a student makes an agreement to withdraw. Requirement would apply to expulsions, exclusions and agreements to withdraw. Comprehensive services provided until the student enrolls in another school district or charter school.

· New language outlines a district’s responsibility to review the student’s work and grades on a quarterly basis to ensure they are on track for readmission with their peers. Also requires regular communication with parents and the school to ensure student is completing the work assigned.

· Updates language about the readmission process to reflect social emotional learning rather than just character education.  It could also address other services, such as counseling and social work services.

· Improves data sharing between districts about students.

School Linked Mental Health Grants. Proposal includes:

· An increase of $5M for school linked mental health grants in the DHS budget.

The Governor's proposal more closely mirrors that of Senator Carla Nelson's, which simply adds aid to the current safe schools levy than the House approach of broadening the uses of Long Term Facilities Maintenance Revenue.  The Governor's approach of equalizing the levy may allow school districts to get more bang for the buck, as the aid would go toward mitigating levy disparities that exist between high and low property wealth school districts and stretch the state aid further in the process.  As I wrote yesterday, House Education Finance Chair Jenifer Loon made it clear that she was open to any and all suggestions as her bill--HF 3320--moves forward and that would include suggestions to add more revenue to the system.