Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Heavy Laden Hump Day. Another busy day with our metro regional meeting and a slate of hearings at the Capitol. There was good turnout at our metro regional meeting, as about 20 folks battled the sloppy rush hour weather to join in spirited discussion of the legislative session thus far and plot strategy for the remainder of the session.

The main bill of interest is HF 2798 (Morgan) /SF 2815 (Saxhaug). That bill, as discussed on the blog before, would increase the basic formula amount by an additional 2% for the 2008-2009 school year and eliminate the special education formula funding gap. That bill will be heard tomorrow in the House K-12 Funding Division.

The House K-12 Funding Division took testimony from 8 Minnesota school districts this afternoon and each of these districts made a strong case regarding the need for additional revenue for the coming school year. Three SEE member districts were among the districts that testified. Pictured on the right is Amy Gitchell, a parent from the Brainerd School District. Amy did a great job describing the magnitude of the cuts being made in Brainerd as a result of the unsuccessful levy campaign last fall. Other SEE member districts included St. Cloud, which also had a levy fail last fall, and Stillwater, which was successful with their renewal question, but were unable to garner further revenue as two additional ballot questions failed. The message is clear: More revenue is needed for the next school year and hopefully, the Legislature can make that happen.

The Senate Education Policy Committee took up the aforementioned SF 2815 (Saxhaug) this afternoon. Besides increased funding, both HF 2978 and SF 2815 contain language that would eliminate the requirement that a referendum ballot read "Voting 'Yes' May Raise Your Taxes" when no additional revenue is being raised through a renewal election. Several SEE members have contacted me regarding this bill and while a conflict made it impossible for me to testify in person, I informed Senator Saxhaug of SEE's support for the bill and he mentioned that in his bill presentation.

Nice Work by Minnesota 2020. If you remember Matt Entenza's--Minnesota 2020 Founder and President--presentation at our November SEE meeting, you will recall his assertion that Minnesota 2020 would involve itself in the key issues facing Minnesota and work to provide strong evidence of the need for change. Minnesota 2020 has made good on that promise already in several issue areas and today launched a foray into the education funding debate with the release of "A Chilling Call to St. Paul: Minnesota Superintendents Speak Out About Minnesota's Failed Funding System." Gee, I wish the title had been more direct (Hey, where's the sarcasm emoticon on this thing!).

Seriously, great work by John Fitzgerald, a former newspaper reporter who is a fellow at Minnesota 2020.

Link to report:

There Will Be Blood (Well, Maybe not Blood Exactly). But there is going to be some wrangling tomorrow in the House Education Committee as HF 3596 (Faust) is heard. HF 3596 seeks to put the brakes on what is viewed as excessive, and unauthorized, rulemaking by the Minnesota Department of Education.

I don't think anyone contends that the Minnesota Department of Education shouldn't be able to exercise rule-making authority in many instances, but one of the things that appears to have been happening over the last decade or so is increasing "rule creep," as rules are sometimes developed without going through the formal rule-making process or that rules that do go through that process often go far beyond the intent of the Legislature.

Whether or not this bill becomes law, it is certainly part of a discussion that must take place. The Legislature may need to be more clear in its legislation when rules are required to place greater constraints on the subject matter that is to be covered and the scope of the rules. It should also make certain that when rules are needed, that the formal rule-making process be used.

It is the Legislature's constitutional duty to set policy and the Executive Branch's duty to implement the policies that result from the interplay between the Legislature and the Governor in the policy development process and are then approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. At the very least, this bill should bring attention to a troubling trend and foment discussion throughout the remainder of the Legislative Session.

Don't worry. I'll duck if furniture starts flying.

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