E-12 education omnibus bill underfunds Minnesota’s students

The Senate Republican E-12 education omnibus bill provides a $300 million investment for Minnesota’s public school system, falling far short of the Governor’s $709 million budget proposal and short of what the Republican leadership promised throughout the legislative session. The money provides a 1.5% formula increase each year to fund education programs for Minnesota students. The bill also cuts funding from successful programs to meet the low target and the budget “tails” in FY2020-2021.

This bill does not provide the necessary funding to meet the goals of a 2% per year increase in the Basic Education Funding formula, a promise that was reiterated by the chair and other Republican education leaders during the session. It provides a 1.5% increase on the formula each year of the biennium.

The bill funds some small grant proposals from bills heard throughout the session, mainly from Republican members, although some had DFL authors. It does make permanent a compensatory pilot grant project that spends $13 million over two years and over $14 million in FY20-21 and beyond. The Education Partnership Coalition funding is reallocated, cutting the funding for the Minneapolis Northside Achievement Zone and St. Paul Promise neighborhood programs by $1.2 million to provide funds to the Red Wing, Northfield, and St. Cloud programs. Two million dollars is provided for Early Learning Scholarships over the current $100 million appropriation, and $5 million is provided for the Tiered Licensure and Board of Teaching transition. (SF 718)

Governor’s concerns:

  • The Senate’s bill is “slim” – the target is inadequate to meet the needs of Minnesota’s school districts.
  • The 1.5% formula increase doesn’t match the Governor’s request and can’t meet the demands of educational program needs for students. Education advocates agree that at least a 2% increase – if not more – is essential for the biennium.
  • There is no additional investment in voluntary pre-K funding. The lack of investment means that the 13,800 children in over 269 school districts will continue to wait for public pre-K openings.
  • The Perpich Center for the Arts should continue to administer the arts integration grant.
  • Teacher licensure provisions threaten teacher quality and preparation requirements by allowing Tier 1 teachers to be granted unlimited licenses with only school board support and little teacher preparation.
  • Changes to alternative teacher preparation requirements also undermine teacher quality by eliminating student teaching, removes the partnership with a higher education institution, and makes approval of new programs by the Educator Licensing Board mandatory.
  • Lack of funding for Minnesota Department of Education technology upgrades threaten staff’s ability to disseminate state funding to school districts in a timely fashion.

Senate DFL Caucus concerns:

  • As with the Governor, the E-12 target is too low and provides inadequate funding for school districts.
  • The low target means no new investments in pre-K programs. The bill basically ignores the Governor’s funding request that would provide money for all the districts that requested funds in early January. The additional $175 million would bring the 13,800 children on the waiting list into quality programs to help prepare them for kindergarten and close the achievement gap.
  • The bill cuts quality programs such as the successful Northside Achievement Zone and Promise Neighborhood to fund programs in Northfield, Red Wing, and St. Cloud. If the Senate target had been larger, there would be additional funds for all successful programs to help close the achievement gap.
  • Literacy Incentive Aid, which provides funds to districts that raise reading test scores, is frozen at current levels. This move could stall reading proficiency, even though the Republicans claim this is one of their major priorities.
  • Special education is ignored in the bill, despite a growing “cross subsidy” that drains school district general fund budgets to meet federal mandates.
  • Ignoring the Governor’s request of $4 million in one-time funds for student support staff means that numerous districts across the state will not receive matching funds to help provide more counselors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, and chemical dependency counselors in Minnesota schools.

Policy provisions:

  • The bill combines policy and finance provisions, although the Governor has requested this not be the practice for legislation.
  • The major policies are the tiered teacher licensure provisions and the overhaul of the state’s Board of Teaching into the Professional Educator Licensing Board. The bill also provides funding for the Board transition and the Tiered Licensure implementation.
  • The bill proposes to close and sell the Crosswinds School in Woodbury that is currently being run by the Perpich Center for the Arts. Funding that is left over from the bond payments will be used to fund teacher pensions – a potential $10 million of a total $62 million price tag.
  • Charter schools will now receive lease aid when their students are enrolled in PSEO courses.
  • School districts can implement “e-learning” days during inclement weather when school may be called off due to snowstorms and other events. This is not a mandate.
  • The bill changes third grade reading requirements and melds some from the Governor but also contains contentious language that was opposed by the House Republicans in conference committee last session. The bill requires schools to implement Personal Learning Plans for third grade students that do not meet reading proficiency, but provides no new funding for this mandate and freezes Literacy Aid at current levels.
  • The bill requires the Minnesota Department of Education commissioner to hire a dyslexia specialist.
  • The bill allows the Minnesota Department of Education commissioner to award Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) grants to school districts that plan to increase AP and IB STEM offerings to low-income and other disadvantaged students.
  • The bill restricts the ACT and SAT reimbursement to students in grades 11 and 12 for free and reduced-priced lunch, repealing the requirement that schools provide the ACT and SAT to all students.
  • The bill requires the LCC to provide for a study of early childhood care and education programs.
Senate DFL Media