Review and Preview. It was a hectic week and things are only going to get more hectic. The week was highlighted by the Senate DFL caucus' announcement of its funding proposals and it is certainly a comprehensive package that would meet a lot of school district needs. Foremost among the proposals is Senator Kevin Dahle's SF 76, which would expand eligibility to the alternative facilities program from 25 districts to all of the districts in the state. It has a considerable price tag in terms of local levy and state equalization aid to mitigate the effects of those local levies, but there's no question that there are unmet facilities needs for most school districts in the state and the current array of facility programs don't go nearly far enough in providing school districts with the tools they need to stay ahead of their facility needs. Not to sound snide, but if anyone should understand the need for comprehensive deferred maintenance funding, it should be legislators, who are now surrounded by a Capitol that is undergoing massive (and I mean massive) repairs. There's a long ways from here to there, but here's hoping that facility funding stays front-and-center in this year's legislative proceedings.
Another bill introduced in the House on Thursday by Representative Steve Drazkowski and soon to be introduced in the Senate by Senator Lyle Coenen is the bill that would put all future debt service levies on the referendum market value tax base from which agricultural property is removed. The impetus behind this bill is the consistent and continuing rise in the value of agricultural property and how that is affecting rural communities that are trying to pass debt service levies. This bill could fit nicely with the aforementioned SF 76, but a lot will depend on how much state money will be available for the property tax equalization needed to make the approaches fully mesh. Here is hoping for an uptick in the state's revenue position when the February forecast is released at the end of the month.
The upcoming week will also be busy. The House Education Innovation Policy Committee will be hearing HF 2, Representative Jenifer Loon's comprehensive teacher licensure bill, on Tuesday morning. The House Education Finance Committee will be taking testimony on the implementation of the Health Insurance Transparency Act in the afternoon on the same day. The Senate Education Finance Committee will be hearing Senator Alice Johnson's School Breakfast bill on Tuesday. Wednesday features a slew of bills on waiving the Labor Day start for the 2015-2016 school year being heard in the Senate, with the House Education Finance Committee tackling two early childhood education bills. Thursday will see the discussion of teacher issues, math standards, and expanding eligibility to enroll in concurrent enrollment in the House and Minnesota Department of Education reports from the Teacher Development and Evaluation and the Testing Reduction Advisory Group.
Always check on the legislative website for upcoming hearings. Here is the link: http://www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/schedules.aspx
Congrats to Beth Giese! Cannon Falls Superintendent Beth Giese has been named this year's winner of the Kay Jacobs award, an annual award given by the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. Here's a story from the Cannon Falls Beacon on the award that provides more background on Beth and the award. Beth truly deserves the award, as she's worked very hard on a tight budget to help lead that district.
Great Job Once Again by the Southeast Service Cooperative. The Southeast Service Cooperative had its annual Legislative Forum on Saturday in Rochester. As usual, the forum was an astounding success. If you ever want to know how to set up a successful legislative forum, check with the folks at the Southeast Service Cooperative on how to set it up and then get Dover-Eyota Superintendent Bruce Klaehn to be the emcee. Over a dozen legislators attended and the presentations by the local superintendents on a variety of issues facing the school districts in Southeastern Minnesota were superb.
Here is a link to the Powerpoint presentations from the superintendents. Video of the forum may be available in the near future.