Senate DFL legislators learn how Republican Education Bill will directly hurt students

ST. PAUL, MINN – On Friday, a group of Senate DFL legislators accepted an offer from a local St. Paul school principal to take a tour of his school, and learn how the current 2017 Education Budget bill proposal will lead to severe cuts to services at his school, Maxfield Elementary.

Principal Ryan Vernosh shared stories about the challenges his students face, including the fact that some 30 percent of the students who attend Maxfield have experienced homelessness this year. The St. Paul Promise Neighborhood School has made leaps and bounds over the past few years, but Vernosh explained to legislators that budget cuts are forthcoming if the current Republican education proposal is passed into law.

“We will have to cut support staff this year. That will impact our ability to connect with essential programs that offer our homeless students the support and stability they need to find academic success. It means the students who need extra support the most – won’t get it. So many of our kids in our school have been dealt an unjust hand, and I refuse to let that define them. That’s why I’m out talking to as many legislators as I can – so they can understand the budgets they’re making have real-world effects,” said Principal Vernosh.

Sen. Susan Kent (DFL-Woodbury), Sen. Greg Clausen (DFL-Apple Valley) and Sen. Steve Cwodzinski (DFL-Eden Prairie), all sit on either the Senate Education Finance or Policy committees and attended the Friday round table discussion and tour, as well as Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul) who represents the district Maxfield sits in.

“The students and staff at Maxfield are lucky to have Principal Vernosh fighting battles for them. His frank and open explanations were straightforward: his students will suffer if the current Republican-proposed education bill is passed. We went here to learn the how and why and see what schools like Maxfield are doing with state dollars.

This tour invitation was also extended to House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin, after she dismissed the significance of the cuts, but she turned it down. Legislators making decisions about our students’ lives owe it to them to visit schools like Maxfield. We all need to understand the problems in our schools, and see them from the ground level before we vote on them. These visits are invaluable,” said Sen. Kent.

Senators Susan Kent, Greg Clausen, and Steve Cwodzinski stand with Maxfield Elementary principal Ryan Vernosh.
Senators Susan Kent, Greg Clausen, and Steve Cwodzinski stand with Maxfield Elementary principal Ryan Vernosh.
Senator Susan Kent listens in to principal Ryan Vernosh during a recent visit to Maxfield Elementary.
Senator Susan Kent listens in to principal Ryan Vernosh during a recent visit to Maxfield Elementary.

Key provisions in the 2017 Education Bill

  • The bill provides about $100 million less for the per student funding formula than the Governor, which means schools will get about $30 less per student. That difference will strain school district budgets, potentially raising property taxes, increasing class sizes and cutting classroom programs.
  • Invests $274 million for a 1.5% increase to the basic funding formula increase. This is the main funding driver for school classroom budgets.
  • There is a $47 million cut to the voluntary pre-k program; effectively ending the program that helped send 3,300 4-year-old children in 74 school districts to pre-k last fall. (Governor Dayton and DFLers hoped to expand the program; 60 percent of districts that applied for pre-k funding last year were denied due to lack of funds, showing the extreme demand for the program.)
  • Closes the 30-year-old Perpich School for the Arts in Golden Valley.
  • Schools are strongly encouraged to provide a personal learning plan to students who have not met third-grade reading proficiency benchmarks.

 

Senator Susan Kent
Susan Kent represents District 53 in the eastern Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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