Omnibus E-12 Finance Bill, Special Session
Governor Dayton publicly announced he was vetoing the E-12 bill, not because of what was in the bill – but because of what was not included. Specifically, he demanded more pre-school funding, funds to eliminate the Head Start waiting list, funding for English learner programs, special education and additional funding for American Indian students, to name a few.
The negotiated bill that passed in Special Session totaled $525 million, making it the third largest investment in education in state history. Governor Dayton and the DFL Senate prevailed in securing close to $89 million in new money for early childhood education through a combined approach of School Readiness, Early Learning Scholarships and Head Start. The bill also includes a 2 percent per pupil funding formula increase – easing school budget concerns for the next few years.
Senate education leaders called the bill a win for Minnesota schools and students.
Increasing the Per Pupil Funding Formula
The Education bill includes a 2% increase to the per-pupil funding formula for both FY16 and FY17, The new money will help schools avoid any painful cuts to the classroom. The new investments amount to $117/ student in FY16 and $119/student in FY2017. This is money that provides districts the flexibility to invest in areas that best suit their individual needs and ensures quality educational programs for all students, while significantly limiting the need for cuts.
After increases to the formula, the bill places a large priority on getting all of Minnesota’s youngest learners ready for Kindergarten. The investments in pre-k are split; with $30.75 million dedicated to School Readiness and $48.25 million for Early Learning Scholarships. The Minnesota Reading Corps program, which focuses on helping struggling readers achieve grade-level reading standards, also received $3.5 million in this year’s E-12 budget bill.
These programs directly lead to closing the achievement gap and help ensure more 4-year-olds are prepared for kindergarten.
Eliminating the waiting list for Head Start was a big priority of Governor Dayton’s. This bill includes $10 million to eliminate the Head Start waiting list for low-income children in Minnesota. This program plays an important role in educating those youngsters who most need help and preparing them for Kindergarten.
Another major priority for the Senate this session was finding a solution to the underfunding of facilities at most school districts across the state. Most buildings range from 40-50 years old, with the oldest school buildings reaching 87 years of age. The Senate invests $31.96 million over the biennium in this budget bill, and a significant ramp up of investment in subsequent years.
This is an equity issue for school districts. This measure puts all school districts on equal footing with most large metro-area districts, giving them the ability to repair and renovate their schools buildings.
Equity to School Funding
The bill also includes a focus on assisting school districts with attracting and retaining quality teachers. The Senate bill does this by increasing the cap on Q Comp and adding $9.5 million into the program which allows districts to offer teachers career advancement options, job-embedded professional development, performance pay, and more.
Compensatory Pilot Grants
The bill funds the Compensatory Pilot Grants program with $10 million over the FY16-17 biennium. The grant money is given to school districts based on their percentage of students on the free or reduced lunch program. Advocates for the program argue it is about bringing equity to school districts and helping close the achievement gap.
The grant money will be shared between seven school districts: Anoka-Hennepin, Brooklyn Center, Osseo, Robbinsdale, Rochester, South Washington and Albert Lea.
Minneapolis Northside Achievement Zone and St. Paul Promise Neighborhood
This bill provides $4 million in additional funding for the Promise Neighborhood program. The Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood (SPPN) is a community-wide initiative to provide the academic and social supports children need to succeed in school and in life. Saint Paul’s Promise Neighborhood is a 250-square block area in the heart of St. Paul’s historic Frogtown and Summit-University neighborhoods.
The Northside Achievement Zone Promise Neighborhood is a collaboration of organizations and schools partnering with families in a geographic “Zone” of North Minneapolis to prepare children to graduate from high school ready for college.
Each program will receive $2 million.
English Language Learners
This provision extends from six to seven the number of years schools can receive aid for instruction of English Language Learners students. This program received $4.5 million in the bill.
Earning College Credits – College in the Classroom
To expand students’ opportunities for concurrent enrollment, legislators adopted spending an additional $4 million to allow this successful program to double. This will allow many more juniors and seniors to earn college credit while still in high school, thereby saving money on student loans and allowing them to remain at their high school.
American Indian Aid
The Senate Bill also addresses the gross disparity between aid for American Indian students and the rest of Minnesota students. This bill would increase American Indian Aid by $9.5 million and would convert the American Indian grant program to an aid program. Currently, only 32 school districts and tribal contract schools receive state funding. This legislation would expand funding to include all 138 districts and tribal schools that enroll at least 20 American Indian students. This change in the law would provide a significant increase in funding for larger districts, and would enable all districts to create a consistent and sustainable Indian education program.
Bureau of Indian Affairs Schools
This bill appropriates $5 million to Minnesota’s BIA schools.
Major Policy Provisions include
Licensing – Getting quality teachers in the classroom
Minnesota is experiencing a severe teacher shortage crisis, particularly in rural areas. In some districts that used to receive hundreds of applicants per position, the stream has turned into a trickle that makes hiring qualified teachers difficult or close to impossible. In response to this crisis, we streamlined the licensure process. We made it easier for teachers to get their licenses by removing unnecessary barriers, while still maintaining the high standards to which Minnesota teachers are held. This provision also helped streamline out-of-state teacher license requirements. The state’s teacher licensure exam requirements were changed to help streamline the testing process so that more teachers would be eligible for a full license. Those with a documented disability will also be able to receive test accommodations.
Testing – More learning time for students
We reduced the amount of time students will have to spend on standardized testing. The point is to increase learning time and decrease testing time. Students in grades 1-6 will take no more than 10 hours of testing per school year, and students in grades 7-12 will spend no more than 11 hours of classroom time taking tests. This bill also repealed the Education Planning and Assessment system programs (Explore and Plan).
These measures also protect students and schools from the online MCA testing failures this spring, and puts NCS Pearson Inc. (who administers the tests) on notice that the legislature can and will respond to an inadequate product. The provision also give the Minnesota Department of Education the tools to respond to future testing problems.
Flexible Learning Year
School district flexible learning year program approval change:
- School districts that have an approved four-day school week are allowed to continue with their plans for five years.
- Future approvals are contingent upon meeting district performance goals under World’s Best Workforce.
- The Commissioner must give one year’s notice before revoking approval of a program.
- The commissioner will retain authority to approve flexible year plans.
The Senate’s Policy Bill gives students the tools they need to succeed. These tools include allowing 9th and 10th grade students to enroll in concurrent enrollment programs, making changes to the program, allowing high school students to receive credit for outstanding foreign language achievement, and adding more flexibility for students to fulfill their chemistry or physics requirements by allowing either agriculture or career and technical education credits to qualify. It also allows students to gain math credits by taking computer science courses.
There are a number of provisions included in the policy bill aimed at making sure all Minnesota students receive a quality education. Measures included in the bill will ensure paraprofessionals will be better trained and also create a more seamless process for the transfer of special education student files, as well as the implementation of policies meant to reduce student suspensions.
As part of preparing the World’s Best Workforce, Minnesota high schools are working to ensure students are college and career ready. To that end, the policy bill includes a requirement that schools have a posted policy on how teachers pass students on to the next grade level. Charter schools will also be required to give performance measurements for at-risk students.
American Indian Students
Allows for American Indian students to be enrolled in all academic and targeted services.
STATUS: The bill was signed into law (H.F. 1 Special Session)