The Special Session Education Omnibus bill provides an additional $483 million in new funding for Minnesota school districts for the next two years. The bill provides a 2% increase each year in the basic funding formula, $50 million in one-time funds for a new pilot early education program, repeals teacher employment and layoff protection, provided reforms for the Perpich Center for Arts board, and keeps the school open and closes and sells the Crosswinds School in Woodbury. (HF2)
Basic Funding Formula Increases
The bill appropriates $371 million for the biennium, or 2% each year on the basic funding formula, providing $121 (FY18) and $124 (FY19) per student in new money each year. This equals the amount the Governor proposed in his two-year budget. Despite the funding increase, school districts will still struggle to cover costs as the bill does not provide additional funding for special education costs or to cover the increased cost of staff pensions, both proposals recommended in the Governor’s budget.
Voluntary PreK and Early Education Programs
The bill provides $50 million in one-time funding for a new early education pilot program called School Readiness Plus. The Governor originally requested $175 million to expand his signature free, voluntary PreK program; GOP education leaders, however would not agree to increase funding for the popular program that serves 3,300 students each year.
Schools will be ranked by concentration of poverty, with funding allocated under the pilot School Readiness Plus program. Districts will be able to choose if they want to participate in Plus to Voluntary PreK. Only free and reduced-priced lunch children will generate aid for programs and will be admitted free of charge. Unlike the current PreK 4, all other children will be required to pay.
Pathway 2 scholarship funding is frozen at 2017 levels. Pathway 2 scholarships are used only for school-based early ed programs, meaning that public school programs will lose out on early education dollars.
Early Learning Scholarships
The early learning scholarship program will get an additional $21.6 million boost to it $100 million program. However, scholarship eligibility requirements to ensure high quality early education programs have been delayed for six years.
Perpich Center for Arts Education
The Perpich Center for Arts Education will remain open, but the special session agreement changes Perpich Board and school requirements. The MDE commissioner will become a non-voting board member, the school’s executive director must be a school superintendent, all Perpich teachers must be licensed, the board must publish all meeting minutes, and an annual report is required to the legislature on arts outreach and enrollment.
The Crosswinds School in Woodbury, which was transferred to the Perpich Board in 2014, will be closed and sold.
Teacher Layoff Requirements
The bill changes unrequested leaves of absence (ULA) laws so that school boards and teacher bargaining units must, rather than may, negotiate plans for providing unrequested leaves of absence (layoffs) without pay of fringe benefits. The bill deletes language that said a negotiated plan cannot include provisions that would result in layoffs being based on seniority or reinstatement of a teacher holding a provisional license. Although not as expansive as the changes suggested by the Republicans in 2015, these are signature Republican last-in, first-out (LIFO) statute changes that will affect teachers and school layoff provisions across Minnesota.
ACTs and SATs
Schools will be required to pay for free-and reduced-price lunch students who take either the ACT and SAT and offer the tests to all students during the school day.
Compensatory Funding Changes
The bill maintains provisions that require increases in compensatory funding beyond this FY17 be used for only extended time school programs, a provision that was not made by the bipartisan Education Finance Working Group in 2012. This Republican move cuts school flexibility and local control to provide the proper programming to meet students’ needs. The bill also makes the compensatory pilot programs for eight school districts permanent.
Teacher Licensure Bill
House File 140 created a new Professional Education Standards and Licensing Board (PELSBE) and created a four-tier teacher licensing system. The bill was vetoed by the Governor because the bill did not contain the proper funding to transfer board powers and to design the system. House File 2 provided the funding ($3.5 million). The Governor also objected because the licensure tier requirements did not ensure well-prepared quality teachers would be placed in Minnesota classrooms. Changes were made to include cultural competency training for Tiers 1 and 2, but Tier 1 requirements still do not ensure adequate teacher quality.
The bill also requires the PELSBE to review all special education licenses and determine options for cross-categorical licensure and requires the current Board of Teaching to amend Board rules on issuing and renewal of Academic and Behavioral Strategist (special education) licenses.
Education Bills that Did Not Become Law
VETOED: E-12 Education Budget
Governor Dayton vetoed the omnibus E-12 education funding bill citing inadequate funding levels and controversial policy provisions.
The bill, which passed with only Republican votes, provided a 1.5% increase each year in the basic funding formula, cut the Governor’s signature voluntary pre-K program, closed the Perpich Center for Arts Education, and included a provision that repealed teacher tenure protections in state law. (HF890)
Basic Funding Formula
The bill appropriated $274 million for the biennium, or 1.5% each year on the basic funding formula, providing $91 per student in new money each year. This is $30 less per student each year than Governor Dayton proposed, and an amount that is inadequate to sustain school operations and that will result in larger class sizes, loss of educational programs, and higher property taxes. The Governor proposed an additional $371 million for the formula, an increase of $121 per student each year.
The bill slashed the Governor’s signature voluntary pre-K program and phases out the funding in the next biennium, denying thousands of families this high-quality early learning opportunity. The Governor’s investment of $175 million would provide more than 17,400 four-year-old children with high quality pre-k programs across Minnesota.
The bill did provide an additional $20 million to the $100 million early learning scholarship base funding, but it diminished parents’ early learning options with a cap on Pathway II scholarships which were designated only for school-based early ed programs.
Perpich Center for Arts Education
The bill closed the Perpich Center for Arts Education and replaced the school with an art specialist at the Department of Education. The House and Senate Republicans agreed to this drastic measure, even though the new board chair and members are working to address issues outlined in the legislative auditor’s report. The Perpich Center and its arts programs have been assets to students from all areas of our state. The bill would also close Crosswinds School in Woodbury, a provision that has bipartisan support, but the bill banks $10 million to the general fund for the sale of the school, which hasn’t happened yet.
Teacher layoff statutes changed, protections repealed
Unrequested leaves of absence (ULA) laws were changed so that school boards and teacher bargaining units must, rather than may, negotiate a plan for providing for unrequested leaves of absence (layoffs) without pay of fringe benefits. The bill deleted language that said a negotiated plan cannot include provisions that would result in layoffs being based on seniority or reinstatement of a teacher holding a provisional license. Although not as expansive as the changes suggested by the Republicans in 2015, these are signature Republican last-in, first-out (LIFO) statute changes that would affect teachers across Minnesota if it were to become law.
Compensatory Funding Changes
HF890 conference report required that increases in compensatory funding beyond this FY17 be used for only extended time school programs, a provision that was not made by the bipartisan Education Finance Working Group in 2012. This Republican move cuts school flexibility and local control to provide the proper programming to meet students’ needs. The bill also makes the compensatory pilot programs for eight school districts permanent.
The bill required school districts to adopt a policy that provides a PSEO student access to a computer and other technology during the school day to complete PSEO coursework. It also required schools to adopt grade-weighting policies.
ACTs and SATs
The bill removed the requirement that districts offer the ACT and SAT to all students during the school day at school. It also allowed districts to reimburse students on free- and reduced-priced lunch only instead of all students.
The Governor requested $68 million for school districts to fund their pension gaps. This bill had no funding for pensions.
VETOED: Teacher Licensure Bill
House File 140, which created a new Professional Education Standards and Licensing Board (PELSBE) and created a four-tier teacher licensing system was vetoed by the Governor in large part because the bill did not contain the proper funding and because the licensure tiers did not ensure well-prepared, quality teachers would be placed in Minnesota classrooms. The bill also allowed that Tier 1 teachers, with the lowest teacher preparedness levels could be re-licensed indefinitely. (HF140)