Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wednesday Report.  There were two education-related committees, but the day began in terms of education issues with the House Property Tax and Local Government Finance Division where the Governor's property tax proposal was discussed.  There are two provisions in that bill that are high priorities of SEE:  (1) the Ag Bond Credit that was part of last year's vetoed tax bill, and (2) an increase in the debt service equalization program.  I testified on behalf of SEE and outlined both the organization's support for these provisions and the preference that these programs be funded in the tax bill.

The House Education Finance Committee met early in the afternoon and covered five bills.  Two of the bills--HF 946 and HF 947 (both authored by Chair Jenifer Loon)--were technical in nature.  HF 734, authored by Representative Barb Haley, would provide funding for the education partnerships that were funded last biennium.  These partnerships bring together the community, the school, and other local government agencies to provide full-service learning communities.  Representative Tama Theis's HF 1052 would expand the number of "recovery schools" in Minnesota.  "Recovery schools" provide school environments for students in recovery from addiction.  There are currently four such schools and Representative Their's bill would increase that number by two.  The testimony on the bill from a teacher and student was very compelling and provided a clear message why these schools are needed.  The last bill of the day was HF 1164.  This bill is authored by Representative Mary Murphy and provides seed money for the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library to create the Minnesota Center for the Book.

The education day ended with the Senate E-12 Finance Committee meeting where four bills were covered.  SF 877 is the companion to HF 1052 and is authored by Senator Jerry Relph.  The same witnesses who provided support for "recovery schools" in the House reprised their testimony.  SEE member Forest Lake provided the primary testimony for SF 1026, Senator Karen Housley's bill that would provide funding for districts that with deficits in their transportation funding.  The need for this bill is very straightforward.  When transportation funding was rolled into the basic formula in 1995, all districts were held harmless, but since then a number of changes in transportation patterns within districts have changed and the elimination of the hazardous transportation funding category that was part of the 1995 change has left a number of districts running considerable deficits in trying to provide the transportation services they must provide.  The approximate cost of the bill is $31 million and would provide increased funding for 185 school districts and charter schools.  Senator Andrew Lang's SF 494 would provide additional revenue to the Willmar school district for learning year programs at their Prairie Lakes Center and Lake Park School.  SF 936, authored by Senator Bill Weber, was the final bill of the day.  Senator Weber's bill would fully fund the internet access equity aid program and rename it the K-12 broadband equity aid program.




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