Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Governor's Education Finance Working Group Finishes Its Work.  The work is done and now the work is  beginning?  Huh?  Let me rephrase:  The working group appointed by Governor Mark Dayton and Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius approved its final report today.  The report will now be presented to the Governor and will probably serve as a blueprint for the Governor's education funding proposals in the coming biennium.

The bulk of the report's content remains the recommendations of working group from May, 2011.  There have been several additions, most notably a revised special education formula, and revisions to the original report, but the primary direction remains clear.  What is especially heartening is one of the central messages of the report is a clear call for greater property tax equity with the re-establishment of the general education levy, a nod (without a specific funding recommendation) to greater equalization of the referendum and debt service levies, and a roll-in of $300 per pupil unit from the referendum to the general education formula basic amount.

The last item is one that has changed a bit from the original report, which called for a $400 per pupil unit roll-in.  The revised suggestion calls for a $300 per unit roll-in and a revised (and streamlined) equity formula that has a maximum benefit of $100 per pupil unit.  This would make the maximum benefit $400 per pupil unit--the same as the initial recommendation--but it would be accomplished in two steps.  The per pupil equity revenue would be calculated on a sliding scale that would measure a district's referendum revenue "distance" from $1,400 per pupil unit in referendum revenue.  This is an important change, as the original roll-in treated all referenda the same when there is a clear differentiation between a district with a referendum of $500 per pupil and one with a referendum in excess of $1,000 per pupil.  In the original recommendation, all districts with referendum levies in excess of $400 per pupil were treated exactly the same.  That needed to be corrected and the revised report accomplishes that.

Dr. Tom Melcher from the Minnesota Department of Education will be presenting the working group's recommendations at our meeting on Friday.  It should be an interesting discussion.

Beth Hawkins at MinnPost published this article in today's edition of that online newspaper.  It contains a solid synopsis of the working group's recommendations.

MinnPost link: http://www.minnpost.com/learning-curve/2012/11/education-equalization-proposal-go-state-task-force 

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