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Minnesota Legislature

Governor's school budget critiqued

Published (3/6/2009)
By Kris Berggren
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Education advocates praised the governor’s commitment to K-12 education in the challenging economic climate, but critiqued a bill sponsored by Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) reflecting the governor’s education budget.

“Our primary area of concern relates to accounting and property tax shifts,” said Scott Croonquist, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan School Districts.

Presented to the House K-12 Education Finance Division March 3, HF1172 would delay a portion of state aid payments to school districts and require them to recognize a portion of their property tax levies early, saving the state $1.3 billion. However, this could force many districts to borrow or spend down cash reserves to cover the shortfall.

“We are balancing the state’s budget on our credit card. That, to me, is the most troubling part of this budget,” said Brad Lundell, executive director of Schools for Equity in Education.

However, Lundell liked the proposed “pay for progress” revenue that would reward schools for demonstrating student academic growth, not just proficiency.

New spending proposals include:

• expanding Q Comp, the teacher alternative pay system, statewide and increasing the maximum per pupil bonus from $260 to $300;

• a “Summer of Success” to help eighth graders not proficient in reading and math improve before beginning ninth grade;

• a midcareer alternative teacher licensure path; and

• creating a virtual education program.

The bill would save $4.6 million by converting the Perpich Center for Arts Education from a state agency and magnet school to a charter school effective July 1, 2010.

It would also mandate a minimum number of instruction hours, not days, so nearly 100 schools would add between 0.9 and 120 minutes of daily instruction; eliminate teachers’ right to strike except in certain circumstances; and require binding arbitration in others.

The bill was held over for possible inclusion in an omnibus K-12 education finance bill. Its companion, SF836, sponsored by Sen. LeRoy Stumpf (DFL-Plummer), awaits action by the Senate E-12 Education Budget and Policy Division.

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