Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Night Moves.  It's pretty rare when the Legislature starts having night meetings during the second week of session, but with the first committee deadline just two-and-a-half weeks away, a number of committees have begun to meet outside of their regular meeting times.  Tonight, the House Education Policy Committee met and covered three bills related to special education along with a presentation by the Minnesota Department of Education and the co-chairs of the Special Education Caseloads and Rule Alignment Task Force outlining the recommendations of that group.  While none of these findings and resulting bills are controversial, there was spirited discussion of HF 2568 (Sawatsky).  This bill would create a single online reporting system for all special education paperwork in the state.  On its face, it sounds like a good idea, but the question of whether it is the fact that there are multiple vendors providing reporting systems to school districts and special education cooperatives or if it is what is required on the forms by the Minnesota Department of Education that is truly causing the paperwork issues faced by teachers and administrators.  Representative Sawatsky's bill will be moving to the Judiciary Committee, where privacy issues will be discussed.  After that, it will likely be sent back to the Education Policy Committee for possible inclusion in the policy portion of the omnibus education bill.

An Exemplary Report.  The House and Senate Education Funding Committees held a joint hearing this morning dedicated to the final recommendations of the School Facilities Funding Working Group.  There is nary a peep of dissent to this report.  Of course, it doesn't hurt that if the recommendations of the report were enacted, considerable new resources ($200 million in FY 17, $250 million in FY 18, and $300 million)would be funneled into Minnesota's school districts to pay for deferred maintenance projects and increased debt service equalization.  The gist of the group's recommendations is pretty straightforward:  (1) consolidate several revenue streams into a simpler system, (2) increase the facilities revenue available for Minnesota school districts, especially those districts not eligible for the alternative facilities program, and (3) increase equalization of all of these programs to make the tax effort fairer and closer to uniform across the state.

Here is a link to the Working Group's final report.  Tom Melcher used a Powerpoint presentation to summarize the report and back-up data.  I will pass that along online when I can get an electronic copy.

Link to Report:  file:///C:/Users/Brad/Downloads/School%20Facilities%20Financing%20Working%20Group%20-%20Final%20Report%20February%201%202014.pdf

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