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The Minnesota House of Representatives passed a K-12 Education bill today that holds school funding at stable levels for the next two years, offers substantial policy reform on everything from charter schools to mandates to school report cards, and paves the way for significant funding reform to begin when the economy recovers. According to the bill’s author, K-12 Finance Division Chair Mindy Greiling, the bill makes education a priority and keeps Minnesota’s commitment to public students and schools during the current recession.
“Even in the toughest economic times, children have only one chance at a good education," said Rep. Greiling. “By protecting education now, we lay a foundation for future education funding reform provides adequate and fair funding that guarantees every Minnesota student – no matter what their zip code – receives an excellent education.”
Passed on a vote of 85 to 48, House File 2 provides stable funding for Minnesota public schools and avoids budget cuts, using a combination of new revenue, delayed payments and federal stimulus funds. The bill also eliminates a number of mandates to help districts save money and operate more efficiently, and adds no additional mandates to schools.
“We wanted to make certain that we gave districts greater flexibility in this particularly challenging economic climate” said Greiling. “We knew that if we untied some of the strings we’ve attached over the years, they’d be able to operate more efficiently and book some significant savings.”
The bill also contains policy reform to encourage innovation, choice, greater accountability and better results.
“This bill helps us maintain high standards and it will provide additional accountability that gives us useful tools to help teachers improve instruction, help parents understand how their child is doing in school, and help taxpayers feel confident that their tax dollars are being well spent,” said State Rep. Carlos Mariani, chair of the House K-12 Education Policy Committee.
Some of the K-12 policy provisions included in the bill:
• Strengthens the oversight, governance and financial management of charter schools in response to the June 2009 Legislative Auditor's report.
• Reduces a number of mandates to save schools money and better conform to federal standards
• Creates three new accountability measures that assess:
o Value added growth
o Rigorous course completion to ensure high-school students are taking the kinds of classes that will prepare them for post-secondary success
o Student engagement
• Creates a temporary alternative path to a high school diploma without sacrificing rigor for students who fail math GRAD test
• Modernizes teacher re-licensure
• Transitions to computer-adaptive assessments in math and reading to moves Minnesota beyond NCLB testing and redesigning the tests to help teachers deliver better instruction.
“Given the challenging budget circumstances, I think we did a pretty good job of striking a balance between the need for funding that maintains quality learning with reforms that provide stronger accountability, better results, and more operating flexibility and efficiency for schools,” said Mariani.
House File 2 also creates a pathway for significant school funding reform to begin when Minnesota’s economy recovers. The education bill sets in statute a schedule to begin a four-year phase in of the New Minnesota Miracle, starting in 2014.
“By prioritizing education, even in the face of a staggering deficit, we’re fulfilling our commitment to Minnesota’s students, and our commitment to help create and sustain Minnesota’s economic competitive edge,” said Greiling. “And since education investments are the single best engine of economic growth state government can make, it makes no sense to back away from that during a recession. Building a workforce that can compete now and in the future must be a Minnesota priority.”