Governor's Bill Presented, Supported, and Questioned. The House Education Funding Committee heard HF 1065 (Davnie) this morning and the bill was presented in its entirety by Minnesota Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Heather Mueller, Director of School Finance Terri Yetter, and Director of Government Affairs Adosh Unni. They did a comprehensive job explaining the bill and they did it in rapid fire fashion, which allowed for a considerable amount of public testimony supporting the bill. In addition to support for the more basic elements of the bill (basic formula increase, special education cross-subsidy hold harmless aid, increase in the English Language formula, and a healthy increase in property tax equalization combined with simplification of the levy framework), witnesses voiced support for proposals like the student support personnel aid program and student mental health supports. There is a lot in the bill, which elicited questioning from Republicans on the committee who believe the bill is too large and contains too many programs that don't address basic student and school district needs and instead goes in other directions. There are new programs that can be framed as mandates in the bill (and also in the Governor's policy bill) and it will be interesting to see what survives the process this session. There are clearly different visions of Minnesota's education future between the caucuses both in the House and Senate and between the branches of government, so it's going to make for an interesting ride.
I want to thank St. Michael-Albertville Superintendent Ann-Marie Foucault for testifying on behalf of SEE, MREA, AMSD, MSBA, and MASA in favor of the equalization sections of the Governor's bill. As superintendent of a low property wealth district with a high debt service load, Superintendent Foucault knows firsthand the funding challenges that districts with that profile face and how taxpayer fairness is needed to help level the playing field both in terms of funding and taxpayer burden,
Big day tomorrow with the announcement of the February budget forecast, which will provide a picture of the fiscal confines that will dictate legislative action from here until May (or June . . . or July).