Friday, December 20, 2013

Interesting Education-Related Blog I Happened Across.  While doing some research on-line the other day, I came across this blog--School Finance 101--authored by Dr. Bruce Baker, a professor in the graduate school of Education at Rutgers University.  Looking through the blog, there are some really interesting takes on a number of education funding and policy issues, including his latest post on de-ciphering the meaning of the recent National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) and Programme for International Student Achievement (PISA) test results.  The results of these tests have caused a lot of discussion and Dr. Baker puts forward a pretty thorough statistical analysis that provides a different perspective on the results than what has generally been reported.

Here is a link to Dr. Baker's blog:

Here are the links to the NAEP results discussed in Dr. Baker's blog:

PISA test results discussed in Dr. Baker's blog:

Happy Holidays to All!  I'd like to take the time to thank everyone inside and outside SEE who have offered support during 2013 and I look forward to continuing our important work in 2014.  Hope all have a safe and happy holiday season.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

It Pays to be Optimistic.  Don't worry.  I remember the snickers from the audience at the September meeting when I said I was optimistic about the state's fiscal  picture (Me optimistic?  I think Deb Henton actually mentioned it in the meeting minutes.  That's how rare optimism comes from me.), but lo and behold, I was right!  There is that anecdote about the blind squirrel finding the acorn that is somehow appropriate here, but there's no question that for whatever reason, Minnesota's financial picture is pretty rosy as we head into 2014.

The November forecast (why is it called the November forecast when it's delivered in December?) came out today and it shows an approximately $1.08 billion surplus for the remainder of this biennium.  That means that after the school property tax shift is paid back and the $15 million owed to the state airports fund, there will be $800 million left on the bottom line.

It needs to be pointed out that approximately $250 million of the budget forecast "surplus" (how many times have I been reminded that it's not a true surplus, but an increase in forecasted--not actual--revenue) comes from lower than expected expenditures.

The Governor has stated that he wants an "unsession," but I think it would be hard for a legislature of any partisan stripe to walk away from an $800 million opportunity to cut some of the taxes enacted last session and/or spend on new or existing programs.  Where there is money, there is action and I expect there will be a tug-and-pull starting February 25 (the first day of the 2014 Legislative Session) over this little windfall.

What is even more heartening than the short-term uptick is the rosier picture for the 2016-2017 biennium, which shows projected revenue to be up approximately $1.5 billion.

Here is the link to the documents related to the budget forecast.  The most valuable document is the complete forecast, which is the third item down: