Monday, April 23, 2018

The Train Kept a Rollin'.  

The House omnibus education funding and policy bill cleared another hurdle today as it passed the House Ways and Means Committee on a voice-vote.  There were three amendments; one technical amendment that passed and two substantive amendments (one that provided more funding to school districts with high special education cross-subsidies starting next year and one that would have made funding or the School Readiness-Plus program contained in last year's bill permanent) offered by the DFL minority that were rejected.  The bill will now move on to the House floor later this week.

It was revealed by House Capital Investments Committee Chair Representative Dean Urdahl that the House bonding bill will likely contain $25 million in bonding for school facilities upgrades related to improved student safety.  While the parameters of this proposal have yet to be spelled out in detail, I would assume (and it's dangerous to assume) that the program will consist of bonding grants to help the neediest school districts in terms of building age and condition to make necessary improvements.  We'll have to wait until the House bonding bill is released for more detail.

The Senate Finance Committee will be taking up the Senate's omnibus education funding bill tomorrow morning.

Here's a little musical nugget by 1960s British blues rockers The Yardbirds all about The Train Kept a Rollin'.  Note guitarist Jimmy Page who later went on to play in Led Zeppelin playing lead guitar in this video.

Sticking with the Train Theme.

There may be a collision dead ahead.  As the House omnibus education funding bill was being discussed today, the difference of opinion of how the funding and policy process should unfold this year popped up.  The Governor has been clear that he wants the Legislature to send him funding bills devoid of policy and policy bills devoid of funding.  The Legislature (at least the House) is combining its funding and policy provisions for each issue area into single bills.  On top of that, the possibility exists that the Legislature will combine all of its funding and policy into one supplemental budget bill and that bill, along with the tax and bonding bills will be the only bills in the conference committee process as the session winds down.  Like a joked last week, if they put all the funding and policy into one bill, I will need one of these to carry the bill around.

House Property Tax Bill has some Interesting Provisions.  The House Property Tax and Local Government Finance Division reported out their bill last Friday and it contains a couple of provisions that school districts have been opposing for years and will oppose again this session.  The bill would require ballot language that would describe to voters the current amount of voter-approved referendum levy and board-approved local option revenue when seeking additional operating levy revenue.  The other provision would limit the days (perhaps I should say "day") on which a district could hold a bond referendum to the general election day.  We've been through this discussion before and given that the dates for holding a bond referendum were pared down to four in addition to general election day last session, it's premature to limit them once again. As for the first proposal, districts already go through the truth-in-taxation process and that should suffice in providing a detailed explanation of the education-related property tax burden that district residents experience.  If there needs to be another round of required reporting prior to an operating levy question, there are better ways of doing that than loading up the ballot with confusing language.

A provision that would change the property tax base for bond levies from the current framework to one where agricultural property would be exempted from the tax base was amended into the bill as well.  This effort--spearheaded in a bipartisan manner by Republican Representative Steve Drazkowski (the Division chair) and DFL Representative Paul Marquart--has been discussed for years and it may still not be ready to be served, but it has come a long way as the current iteration of the provision greatly hikes the debt service equalization equalizing factor and the referendum equalizing factor to avoid the shift of the property tax burden too heavily onto residential and commercial property.  This is something to watch even if it does not pass this session, as the property tax burden carried by owners of agricultural property continues to climb.

Great Link Passed Along by Superintendent Teri Preisler.  Tri-Cities United Superintendent tweeted this link last week and it describes a really interesting program that seeks to individualize education for students.  What I found most interesting is that some people are talking about the need for more customization of education while others think standardized testing (and by extension summative assessment frameworks that grade schools) is the way to go.  The article linked below shows what individualized education that is student-driven might look like:  Setting the pace in schools: How to overcome the hurdles of giving students more control over their learning

Go Bombers!  I always have to give a shout-out to my alma mater of Cannon Falls High School when they are in the news and they deserve a couple of whoo-whoo's in addition to a shout-out in recognition of their third consecutive state speech title.  If anyone wants to see what a state speech champion doesn't look like, just ask me to do my Humorous Interpretation entry from 1970s, "The Flea Gang's First Cigars."  If you want to see what state speech champions do look like, here they are:

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