And so it begins – Update for January 11

/ 11 January 2013 / eunice

Welcome to the 2013 Legislative Session! 

Parents United for Public Schools is a Minnesota-based, homegrown, grassroots parent-led organization. We exist to unite and empower those who value public education to be strong advocates for excellence in our public schools.

This is our tenth year providing these weekly updates to readers in each of Minnesota’s 134 legislative districts. The intent of our missives is to be your eyes and ears in the halls of the Minnesota State Capitol – attending House and Senate education committee hearings, tracking bills and keeping you apprised of what is happening. If you want to be involved in these happenings, we are happy to help! You are one of a great many individuals who wish to be “in the know” about legislation that will impact our schools and the students they serve. We are happy you are here.

Last Saturday, we had a wonderful group at our annual Legislative Kick-off and shared the combined wisdom from within that group! It was clear how passionate everyone is about education and how truly complex these issues are. We welcome the opportunity for more of these conversations!

Important Date:

Monday, January 14, 2013, 6:30 pm – in Duluth

Community Dialogue with Minnesota PTA and MinnCAN: How to strengthen school culture and student learning

Ordean-East Middle School Auditorium, 2900 E. 4th Street, Duluth

Featuring: Daniel Sellers, MinnCAN executive director, Mary Cecconi, Parents United executive director, and Theater of Public Policy

A New Beginning

The 2013-14 legislative session began quietly on Tuesday with talk of bipartisan cooperation. In the first year of the biennium the role of the Governor and legislators is to pass a balanced state budget. There is a great deal of interest in reforming the entire tax structure in Minnesota to try to get off the deficit roller coaster we have been on for the last decade. Legislators have been saying that throughout the election season they heard the public’s appetite for tax reform was great. The majority of the session will be spent on this issue. How education funding fits into this restructure is critical.

First bill from the House

Newly-elected Speaker Thissen announced that HF 1 has been introduced to pay back the school shift. This is understandable. We are told they heard a great deal of frustration about the school shift during the campaign. However, paying back the school shift will NOT provide NEW MONEY to schools; schools will be receiving “anticipated state aid” in accelerated payments.

Stick with me, because this can seem really complicated, but it’s important. Last session, the state held onto dollars it owed schools in order to balance their own checkbook. Now the state is paying off its credit card bill more quickly and schools will receive that money sooner than anticipated. But they will not get MORE money than they were owed – it is a $0 net result for schools. I heard this will cost the state $550 million.

If a school had to borrow against the anticipated aid, they may save some interest expense. But because of the economy, interest for borrowing has been fairly low; the exception may be for charter schools that may have to pay higher interest on borrowed money.

Goals of the House Education Finance Committee

The first education meeting of the session was the House E12 Education Finance. Committee Chairs are from the majority party and each committee has a minority lead. Chair Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth) led with his goals, stating that a world class economy requires a world class education system. GOP Lead Woodard (R-Belle Plaine) has introduced HF53, a bill requiring a 3/5 vote of the entire body to reduce any future school shift below 90/10. Others concerns and priorities often mentioned were closing the achievement gap, equity, equal dollars, and money to implement the new teacher evaluation system,

Chair Marquart is asking that in the next weeks the committee build consensus around what three to five priorities they have and then solicit input from citizens and organizations on those topics. The chair clearly stated that these priorities would not be the only issues the committee would deal with, but having priorities is a way to filter issues.

New Leadership

A new biennium brings new leadership, a new committee structure, committee members and Chairs. Take a moment to see who will be leading the efforts for education legislation this biennium.

A Look Ahead

A lot of attention is focused on January 22, the release date for Governor Dayton’s budget; traditionally this release is the starting point of the budget year.

In the next few weeks, all education committees will be getting underway. Senators and Representatives introduce themselves to each other and state their individual goals for Minnesota’s public schools. It’s an interesting time to watch elected officials move from campaign mode to governing.

If you are planning a Capitol visit, it is always a good idea to check the House/Senate schedule the morning of your visit. Hearings and agendas are often changed.

 Ask Your Legislators!

One of the best ways to be a successful advocate is to build a relationship with your locally elected officials. Share a story about your child’s school, express your opinion or ask them a question.

Early in the session is a great time to develop relationships with your legislators. Meet with them for coffee to introduce yourself – or begin with an email. Get in the habit of emailing them once a week; conversing on a regular basis will help you get to know each other. To help you out, each week we will provide a question that is relevant to current legislation. Please feel free to use, or not!

Question for the week: I am a constituent interested in education policy and funding decisions that you will be asked to make this session. Since this issue is so important, I hope you can keep me informed as to your thinking. What are your hopes for what you can do this session for our public schools?

Friend the Governor!

For those of you on Facebook, you may want to know that Governor Dayton is there as well! He is really interested in stories from Minnesotans – he often says he wants a people’s budget. So consider “friending” our Governor and sharing your thoughts/stories with him. Wow – technology has changed the world!

What Can I Do?

We are often asked, “How can I stay informed and share information with my friends?” Great question, since that is what we are all about – sharing the information. I spend the session attending each education committee hearing so you know what’s happening. Our advice?

  1. Read these weekly Updates.
  2. Send them on to two (or more) friends.
  3. Ask your friends to sign on and receive the Updates directly.
  4. Become a friend of Parents United on Facebook.
  5. Follow us on Twitter.
  6. If you are interested in attending a committee meeting and would like company, just email me to arrange it, mary@parentsunited.org.

 

Mary Cecconi, Executive Director

Parents United for Public Schools

1667 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul, MN 55108

651-999-7391; mary@parentsunited.org