Racial Equity, Funding Equity, Equity of Outcomes – Update for Feb. 1, 2013

/ 1 February 2013 / eunice

Parents United – a busy week in the news!

“Can Do” attitude surrounds the Capitol

The mood around the Capitol is one of “Can Do!” Many committees are taking the time to talk about large issues and defining what they see as possible. So often, time constraints force legislators into narrowing their focus onto passage or failure of specific bills before being able to consider the context and complexity of issues. This is refreshing!**

Amazing Racial Equity Rally

In its seventh Racial Equity Report Card release, Organizing Apprenticeship Project (OAP) gave its first “A” to a Minnesota Governor! Commissioner Cassellius graciously accepted the honor on behalf of Governor Dayton. An amazing speech by Tracine Asberry, newly-elected Minneapolis School Board member, made the case for equity in education NOW. It was an inspiring event and the Capitol Rotunda pulsated with energy. It was terrific to see so many people understand the urgency and need to stand up for this cause!

Historic confirmation hearing

January 29, 2013 was a historic day as the Senate Education committee recommended confirmation of the first woman of color to lead the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). The remarks of Commissioner Cassellius during this hearing __are well worth reading. The confirmation recommendation now moves to the floor for a full Senate vote.

Another go-round for the Education Finance Working Group’s recommendations

This week, the House E12 Finance Committee heard the Finance Working Group’s recommendations. The MDE’s Director of School Finance, Dr. Tom Melcher, presented the recommendations and compared them to the governor’s budget proposal. While the governor‘s proposal appropriates less for K-12 than the committee’s recommendation, the committee believed that it would take four to six years to phase-in these dollars. AND, the fact is the governor’s budget calls for immediate investment throughout the continuum of education – early childhood through post-secondary.

In the committee, it was not surprising to hear legislators’ concerns __regarding equity and stability for school funding. The governor chose not to reinstate the general education levy as a source for school funds, rather choosing income taxes, expanded sales taxes and other state-level mechanisms to provide targeted funding. The concern? As long as the state has an administration willing to align revenue with education investments, schools can survive. However, in years when state revenue is not sufficient to allow for adequate funding, the general education formula would provide stability.

Large turnout for All-Day K

An amazing number of advocates came forward to testify in support of SF2 (Clausen-DFL-Rosemont-Apple Valley-Eagan) and SF162 (Kent-DFL-Woodbury). Both of these chief authors are brand new to the legislature.

The differences in the bills may seem small, but they are not insignificant. SF2 calls for full funding of voluntary All-Day Kindergarten, and SF162 allows additional flexibility for that funding to be used for early education. The amount of data and research shared showing the value of All Day K was impressive. Tom Pritchard from the Minnesota Family Council was the one voice to speak in opposition of early learning. Both bills were laid on the table for possible inclusion in an education omnibus bill.

Legislative Process Translation: At the end of the legislative session, many bills dealing with a single issue are rolled into one large bill providing the full Senate and House one omnibus bill to vote on. As bills are heard in committee, many will be “laid on the table for possible inclusion in an education omnibus bill.” When a bill is laid on the table in this manner, no committee vote is needed, or taken. Later in the process, I’ll explain how those omnibus bills are put together – stay tuned!!

Interesting cross-over committee hearing – Kudos to the chairs!

It is interesting to see joint hearings between education committees from the House and the Senate. These joint hearings have been very rare in my time at the legislature. Even more unusual is two committees meeting that have business in different areas of the state budget! This week the Environment Finance Committee and Early Childhood and Youth Development Committee jointly heard an “informational presentation on air pollution, fine particulate matter and ozone and their effects on prenatal brain development and asthma.”

This type of “silo crossing” is stunning and extremely useful for legislators to put time and attention on the myriad issues that impact our children’s learning. Kudos to these committee chairs!

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.

Question for the week: What do you think of offering voluntary All Day K in Minnesota?

Bills heard this week 

Senate E 12 Division

  • SF 2 Clausen DFL Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan **Voluntary full-day kindergarten funding authorization.**
  • SF162 Kent DFL Woodbury Voluntary full-day kindergarten funding authorization; prekindergarten programs funding option**

**House Early Childhood and Youth Development**

  • HF 107 Moran DFL St. Paul Child care assistance absent days modified.

 

Mary Cecconi, Executive Director

Parents United for Public Schools

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

651-999-7391; mary@parentsunited.org