Monday, April 09, 2018

Let's Get Ready to Rumble.  

It's been a quiet session thus far (at least from my perspective).  A lot of bills have been heard and there has been an outpouring of public activity on several issues, most notably gun control how it relates to school safety.  For the most part, the Legislature worked diligently through the policy committee deadlines and has constructed its omnibus policy bills.  There are a number of important items in these policy bills--for education, the re-implementation of the five-star school rating system is probably the most prominent, but the session will likely not pivot on most of these provisions.

From this point forward in the session money will be the focus with some conformance to the changes in the Federal tax code at the heart of those discussions.  Minnesota's income tax system has been aligned with the measure of Federally Adjusted Gross Income (FAGI) in the calculation of income tax burdens, but with the significant changes to the definition of FAGI in the tax bill passed by Congress in late-2017 and signed by the President, that measure no longer is as seamless for Minnesota taxpayers as it has been in the past.  Thus, conforming to the Federal changes is a little trickier in Minnesota than it is in most other states, especially given the fact that there is now a cap on the deduction for state and local taxes at the Federal level.

As pointed out in Sunday's StarTribune, the issue will dominate the remaining six weeks of the 2018 Legislative Session.  Here is a link to that article:  Taxes top state lawmakers' agendas in second half of the legislative session

The primacy of the tax debate does not mean other important items will be totally shuffled off to the side.  There will be a supplemental budget bill and there will be a number of confrontations between the Legislature and the Governor across the varied budget fronts.  In education, the Governor has proposed some money for school safety along with more money being built into the special education base and a folding of the School Readiness Plus program into the base as well.  While the Legislature hasn't released its budget plans as of yet, at first blush it feels as though they are going to concentrate almost solely on school safety in both the areas of facilities and staff.  It's too early to tell, but we may yet again see a stand-off over early childhood funding.  There may be more traction and a chance for agreement on the special education issue.  In addition to the Governor's recommendation, there is a bill authored by Representative Jim Knoblach and Senator Jerry Relph (HF 4272/SF 3861) that provides districts with high levels of special education cross-subsidies with some measure of relief through a new special education formula component.  Rather than add an additional wrinkle to the formula, the Governor's proposal changes some elements within the current special education formula.  

Here is a link to the text of the Knoblach/Relph bill:  HF 4272/SF 3861.

There are also data runs that accompany both bills.   Here they are:

HF 4272/SF 3861

Governor's Special Education Recommendations

National Attention on Education.  However one feels about teacher strikes, there is little doubt that the statewide strikes by teachers in Oklahoma and West Virginia have brought the issues of education funding and policy into the public spotlight in a way and at an angle that hasn't been seen in a number of years.

Here is last weekend's edition of Marketplace Weekend, which includes a feature on teacher salaries and education funding (it leads off the broadcast, so there's no waiting around for the story):  Marketplace Weekend--04/06/18: Teachers, tariffs, and savings-savvy tech workers

The Sunday edition of The New York Times included a pull-out section on education.  Noted educator thinker Sir Kenneth Robinson weighed in with his opinions on what he views to be the major problems facing education in this interview:  An Expert's View: Sir Ken Robinson

As a bit on an aside, one of the most entertaining things I've ever seen on the internet is this animation based on Robinson's speech on changing education paradigms.  Enjoy it!

Here is another interesting article about individuals who earned a college degree, but decided to re-tool their skills and go into a trade.  Career and technical education has been generating a lot of interest lately both in states and nationally and articles like this do point out the impending shortage of skilled workers that is just around the corner:  Tired of Your Cubicle? Try a Trade.

Follow the Blog.  The next six weeks are going to be chock full of happenings on the education front and I will be blogging most every weekday and perhaps on some weekends.  If you have questions about what is posted or have a suggestion about something I should cover more closely, let me know at

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