Monday, March 18, 2013

Wrap Up From Last Week.  The House and Senate omnibus education policy bills were passed out of committee last Thursday and will be re-referred to their respective education finance committee this coming week, where they will be heard.  The bills had to pass the House and Senate Education Policy Committees by last Friday and did so by being voted on Thursday evening.  The proceedings in both the House and Senate were spirited, but there weren't that many amendments so things moved quickly and the proceedings finished on the same day the discussions began.  That might not seem rare to an outsider, but given the protracted discussions that have taken place over the past few years on most major policy bills, it was a pleasant surprise.  All this said, my guess is there will be more amendments offered to these policy provisions as they become part of the combined omnibus education funding bills (into which the omnibus education policy bills will ultimately be amended).

HF 755 Heard.  Representative Bob Barrett's HF 755 was heard in the House Education Finance Committee last Thursday morning.  HF 755 is a bill that guarantees any district with general education revenue below 90% of the state average revenue up to that amount.  32 of SEE's 62 members receive revenue under the bill and most of these districts either have low levels of categorical revenue, low levels of referendum revenue, or both.  SEE President Todd Anderson, St. Michael-Albertville Superintendent Jim Behle, and Milaca Superintendent Jerry Hansen all testified. in favor of the bill after braving a rough commute to the Capitol because of Thursday morning's snow.  The bill partially addresses the funding issues faced by low-revenue/low-property wealth districts without taking money from districts with high levels of categorical aid or high levels of referendum revenue.  One can quibble about aspects of the bill, but HF 755 is a valid way to address funding shortages faced by many districts and charter schools throughout the state that don't have access to high levels of state aid and have obstacles (or in the case of charter schools a prohibition) attempting to raised revenue through the referendum.

The Senate E-12 Division will be hearing SF 929, the Senate companion to HF 755 authored by Senator Sean Nienow, on Wednesday morning.  I will report on the hearing after it takes place.

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