Thursday, January 16, 2014

Great Day at MSBA Leadership Convention.  It was great seeing so many SEE members at the MSBA Leadership Convention today.  It's always a well-planned and valuable convention and this year's edition was no exception.  A great keynote and a number of very valuable pull-out session, particularly Dr. Tom Melcher's annual highlighting of the past legislative session and the outlook going forward.  I was happy to see him describe the recently-completed School Facilities Financing Working Group report I mentioned in yesterday's blog entry.  That report provides a framework for a much-needed infusion of adequacy and equity in the funding of school facility needs.

The highlight of the day (at least for me) was speaking along with MREA lobbyist Sam Walseth to a room of superintendents and school board members from districts affected by what has come to be known as the doughnut hole" in school funding.  Roughly described, the "doughnut hole" affects districts that receive neither the small schools revenue that was enacted as part of the 2011 omnibus education funding bill and the location equity revenue given to all metropolitan-area districts and non-metropolitan districts with enrollments greater than 2,000 pupil units.  In other words, these are non-metropolitan school districts with more than 980 pupil units and less than 2,000 pupil units who receive no benefit from either of these changes. Approximately 120 districts comprise this strata, which by most measures is the lowest funded strata in Minnesota's funding system.

The cost of providing these districts with the Location Equity Revenue is approximately $4.0 million, with some districts garnering new revenue and others receiving property tax relief through greater equalization.  Expanding Location Equity Revenue to all districts below 2,000 pupil units (including those that receive small schools revenue is somewhere in the vicinity of $8.0 million with the bulk of the revenue being used to replace property taxes with state aid through greater equalization.

Even though the amount of revenue needed to correct this problem is relatively minor in the whole scheme of things, this won't be a slam dunk.  Given the Governor's and Legislature's assumed desire for a quick and concise legislative session, it may be a challenge to get on the radar and garner the support necessary to get this into the omnibus education funding bill (assuming there is one) and through the entire process and onto the Governor's desk.

It's great that SEE and MREA are working together on this issue.  MREA Executive Director Fred Nolan has also been working tirelessly on this issue and suggested that SEE and MREA co-host today's event.  When these two organizations work together, good things generally happen.  About 40% of SEE membership finds itself in the "doughnut hole" and while I don't have the exact percentage of MREA members in the same situation, I wouldn't be surprised if it were at a similar level.

Again, thanks to all the SEE and MREA members who participated today.

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