Fascinating Days at the Capitol – Update for Feb. 17

/ 17 February 2012 / jennifer

This Week at the Capitol – February 13-17, 2012

A history lesson with implications for today

What a fascinating day at the Capitol! On Wednesday morning, the Senate Tax Committee continued its discussion of education finance and the overall tax structure in the state. I think it is fair to say, from the statements of many less senior Senators, much of the information was eye-opening. But veteran Senator Bakk reminded members of the tax deal struck in 2001 – this is history that shouldn’t be forgotten since it has created much of the situation we are in today. A great conversation on Wednesday centered on what should be called tax “reform.” Senator Rest aptly put it that “shifting tax burden from one classification to another is not reform.” Watching or listening to this meeting will be well worth your time since it lays the foundation of all the tax discussions we can expect throughout the year! This discussion will continue in Senate Taxes.

WOW! Maybe this is the reason elected officials have difficulty collaborating…

From MinnPost: “More than a decade ago, Rutgers political scientist Alan Rosenthal noted in his book Decline of Representative Democracy that ‘Americans do not care for disagreement, negotiation, compromise, the role of political parties or the influence of interest groups.’ At both the national and state levels, that pretty much sums up the political situation of lawmakers at all levels.”

Reform 2.0 Education goals

As the legislative session rushes forward at breakneck speed, the connection between proposed legislation and the GOP’s Reform 2.0 platform unveiled earlier this fall is very clear. Make sure you know what is on the list!

NOTE: This session it appears individual education policy bills are heading to the floor as stand-alone bills. This is fast tracking the passage of bills. If you are interested in weighing in on a bill, don’t delay – the time is NOW.

Bills to watch

On Thursday afternoon HF1870 (also known as “Last In-First Out”), passed off the House floor. We have been asked our thoughts about this bill and here is our response. Discussed earlier this week in Senate Education was its companion, SF1690 (Wolf-R-Spring Lake Park), which was on the agenda to come back on Wednesday, but has been re-scheduled for Tuesday, February 21, 3PM, Capitol Room 15.

The following two bills have had no action beyond committee hearing:

Operating referendum levy aids provided to charter schools, HF1860 (Woodard-R-Belle Plaine) Parents United testified against this bill, which presents a “Sophie’s Choice” for parents. We have children in charter schools AND traditional public schools. Original charter school legislation passed in 1991 allows charters transportation funds, lease aid from the state and the ability to charge back their special education costs to the district. We believe charters’ need for further dollars is shared by all school districts and cannot be solved by simply taking operating levy dollars from one set of public schools and giving it to another. The real issue here is the funding formula that affects all schools. It was heartening that the bill author agreed and even credited Rep Greiling for all her attempts over the years to do just that. However, he still wants all renewed or new operating levy funds to follow students to charters; we would oppose this solution. It was great to see folks from Robbinsdale, St. Paul and St. Cloud attending this hearing. It was also terrific that the Hopkins Legislative Action Committee weighed in with a smart letter to their Representative, emailed to all committee members AND published in their local Patch. I made sure each committee member had a hard copy of that letter. Thank you all – it makes a big difference when you are there.

School grading system created, HF638 (Myhra-R-Burnsville)

Rep Myhra tried to get this bill, which requires schools to be graded A-F based on student test scores, passed last year and it was vetoed. The argument is that parents need a simplistic way to determine how their schools fare. I disagree. I believe parents understand complexity and want all sorts of information about their children’s schools and are angered when the value of their children’s school is determined by one test score. Additionally, schools that attain a really good grade would receive an extra $100 per pupil!  What do you think?

Click here for a complete list of education bills heard so far this session.

Also This Week

The Education Finance and Education Reform committees held a joint hearing to review the ESEA Flexibility Request granted by the United States Department of Education; Minnesota Department of Education presenting. Information on the NCLB waiver that adds to your understanding of Minnesota’s new accountability system.

School Trust Land Profits

Utah has done a remarkable job increasing school trust land profits for their K12 schools. Those who have been responsible for this work were in town last week presenting to multiple legislative audiences. Minnesota legislation passed a few years ago made a financial difference for schools and now the debate is centering around who should manage the school trust land in order to maximize the impact for schools. When pushed to answer the question “How much better could Minnesota do to increase the profits for schools?” the testifier said, “You have nowhere to go but up.” Rep. Dittrich has been the driving force behind school trust land efforts and along with Rep. O’Driscoll has authored HF2244 as the next step.

Talk about amending Minnesota’s Constitution…

“Supermajority” issues

  • While supermajority states account for a third of states in the country, only one that has had it in place for two years (SD) ranks in the top ten for SAT scores.
  • The rate of property tax growth in supermajority states is more than double that in non-supermajority states.
  • The relationship between supermajority amendments and above average property tax increases is not hard to explain: The difficulty in generating state revenue in supermajority states causes public costs to shift to local governments, which are then compelled to rely more heavily on local property taxes.

A Look Ahead

Expect to see the redrawn legislative district lines on Tuesday, February 21. This has been a topic of conversation throughout the session. This interactive map of Congressional districts is an intriguing way for you to play with possibilities!

Forward this on to encourage others to Learn • Network • Act!


What Can I Do?

It is always good to check At the Capitol often to see what’s on the agenda and check to make sure the meeting is still scheduled.

If you are interested in attending a committee meeting and would like to meet with me at the same time, just email me at mary@parentsunited.org to arrange it.

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Ask Your Legislators! Question/Comment of the Week:

“Do you believe parents want their schools graded “A”-“F” based on student test scores?”

New @ the Website

  • A History of the School Excess Operating Levy – School operating levies as a percent of total income at an all time high; the percent of districts with referendum authority remains at ~90 percent, Minnesota House Fiscal Analysis, February 2012.
  • Minnesota high-school students taking Adderall to boost academic performance – Illegal use of Adderall is prevalent enough that many students seem to take it for granted. In the same way that some athletes have taken steroids to become stronger, some Minnesota high-school students are taking unprescribed Adderall to perform better in the classroom and on exams, MinnPost, February 15, 2012.
  • Integration task force forwarding results to Cassellius – Just when you thought hardly anyone in the state Legislature could spell compromise, much less produce one, a panel of deeply divided ideological and philosophical foes goes into a windowless subbasement chamber and forges a policy prescription pretty much all are pleased with, MinnPost, February 15, 2012.
  • Governor Dayton Launches Minnesota’s Adopt-A-School Initiative to cultivate, highlight partnerships between school districts and businesses, Office of the Governor, February 14, 2012.
  • The Big Money Behind State Laws – It is no coincidence that so many state legislatures have spent the last year taking the same destructive actions… [including] encourage school districts to contract with private virtual-education companies. (One such company was the corporate co-chair of ALEC’s education committee.), New York Times Editorial, February 12, 2012.
Mary Cecconi, Executive Director
Parents United for Public Schools
1667 Snelling Avenue N., St. Paul, MN 55108
www.parentsunited.orgEmail Mary at mary@parentsunited.org</p>

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