The GOP will likely attempt to implement a student discipline policy that will allow teachers to expel students who have threatened or attacked them with no plan on how to ensure the student will be re-admitted to the classroom.
- The DFL helped defuse this issue last session by creating a 20-member working group to review Minnesota’s Student Fair Dismissal Act and present a report by February 1.
- This compromise, crafted during 2016 conference committee negotiations, melded portions of the GOP “instant expulsion” language that allows a teacher to remove a student from class for specific behaviors but also allows principals to be instrumental in determining if/when a student can be returned to the classroom.
It is unclear what changes the GOP wants to make, although they may want to prevent an MDE-supported rule change that would require charters to abide by the state’s integration rules. These rules outline academic and educational programming if the school meets a specific threshold of students of color. The House GOP introduced such legislation last session.
- Charter schools have opposed this rule change and the discussions continue with MDE. However, in order to ensure that all students are treated fairly, including charters in the rule change is an important provision to be discussed.
Board of Teaching/Tiered Licensure changes
The GOP desperately wants to change the current Board of Teaching (BoT), cutting the power of the teachers and the BoT’s rulemaking and licensing authority. They also want to change how teachers are licensed, and the GOP feels that we discriminate against teachers trained in other states. The Senate GOP designed a BoT reform proposal last summer, but according to our counsel, their ideas may be unconstitutional as structured.
The Legislative Auditor last winter also suggested the current licensing governance structure be changed and to design one that has all licensing functions in one entity. The options are to include it all under the Department of Education or the Board of Teaching. At this point it appears the GOP may be willing to allow the Board to remain aligned with a DFL proposal, and have all functions transferred to it.
- Last session, legislation passed creating a teacher licensure working group to study BoT governance and a proposal that would create different tiers of licenses for teachers, making it easier for licenses to be issued. These changes are meant to simplify the licensing process and help alleviate the teacher shortage.
- The Senate DFL has suggested a new Professional Educators Licensing Board that would be comprised of a group that included a majority group of teachers and would combine current BoT and the Educator Licensing (MDE) functions.
- The House would like the DFL to agree to their tiered licensure proposal. However, their ideas have met resistance from Education Minnesota and the current Board of Teaching.
Property Tax Equity
The GOP wants to find funding (roughly $40 million) to help school districts (mainly for suburban school districts) level the playing field for local property tax payers. This is called referendum equalization.
- Last session, the DFL introduced a similar $40 million funding proposal. It was introduced to make changes to referendum equalization and provide property tax relief to larger school districts.
Basic Funding Formula
The GOP wants to put more than 2% a year on the funding formula, claiming that the funding allocated the past few years did not provide “direct funding to Minnesota classrooms.”
- The 2016 Supplemental funding bill provided $79 million in ongoing funding for E-12 education and $78 million in one-time funding. The House GOP provided a $0 target for education in 2016 and used a change to the Maximum Effort School Loan program to provide $53 million to schools.
- The 2015 Special Session bill provided a 2 percent/year funding formula increase for FY16-17 (total $350.47 million). The House GOP in 2015 had a $156 million budget target compared to the Senate’s $400 million target.
The GOP will likely introduce legislation to repeal current teacher seniority provisions (Last In, First Out or LIFO). This would follow their 2011-12 priorities (the seniority provisions were vetoed by Governor Dayton) and bills introduced 2013-16.
- In 2012, the legislature passed on a bipartisan basis the Teacher Training and Development provisions designed to ensure that school administrators were adequately reviewing teachers’ performance and providing necessary measures to ensure quality teachers were staying in Minnesota classrooms.
- School district administrators and teachers have countered that the TDE provisions are worthwhile, but the legislature has not provided adequate funding for school districts.
Early Learning Scholarships funding
This proposal would require all Early Learning Scholarships be provided directly to families to spend wherever they want to send their children rather than have some of the funding go to public schools to provide early learning programs. The GOP has wanted to change this for a number of years, and some DFL members also support the position.
- More than $100 million is appropriated for scholarships in the current biennium, and about one-half are currently controlled by non-public providers. Because the scholarship amounts do not cover enough of the cost of early childhood programs, this GOP change could potentially hurt program quality and access for families.
- In 2016, $25 million in pre-k grants were made available to Minnesota school districts for free, voluntary pre-k programs. The need was much greater than the offer: 60% of districts applying for the grants did not receive aid. Early childhood education funding is still a critical need in Minnesota, particularly as we look for ways to close the achievement gap and grow a successful workforce for the future.
Education Tax Credit and Subtraction Expansion
This legislation increases the current state education income tax subtraction, allows families to use the current education tax credit for tuition expenses at non-public schools, and expands the credit to more middle-income families.
- This proposal will likely be discussed in the Tax Committee, and has a large price tag. Please see Tax Committee preview section for further information.
- Once again, the GOP wants to siphon money away from public schools and undermine their quality.
Minneapolis School District Changes
In 2015 Sen. Hann introduced a bill that would have divided the Minneapolis School District into six separate districts. Saying that this new structure would help close the achievement gap, Hann did not consult Minneapolis lawmakers on his bill, and the proposed process would likely provide a racially segregated school district for the city’s 36,000 students. The GOP may again try to make dramatic changes to the Minneapolis School District.
- Undermining local control under the guise of closing the achievement gap is a radical step that may only prove to exacerbate problems in the urban school districts.
- There are 10 school districts in the country that are under mayoral control (mayoral-appointed boards and in some cases, mayoral appointed school chiefs): Jackson, Boston, Chicago, Baltimore, Cleveland, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, New York, Providence and Washington, D.C.