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Pre-Labor Day school start possible

Published (3/11/2010)
By Kris Berggren
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The House K-12 Education Policy and Oversight Committee approved a mandate reduction bill March 9 that includes an amendment to allow schools to begin before Labor Day.

Rep. John Benson (DFL-Minnetonka) sponsors HF3478, which would give school districts some relief from state directives in a few areas. Those include reducing instructional days for some districts to 2008-2009 levels; allowing choices about whether to publish notices of certain public hearings online or in print; and allowing districts to transfer unused staff development revenue to their undesignated general fund balance.

The approval came after the committee adopted two amendments offered by Rep. Kim Norton (DFL-Rochester): one to allow schools to begin before Labor Day, and another, successfully modified by Rep. Mike Obermueller (DFL-Eagan), to give schools more flexibility over spending the $3 per pupil set-aside from the $30 per pupil safe schools levy. The set-aside is designated to maintain school support services, such as counselors and school nurses at prior year levels.

Norton said one small school district in her legislative district was forced to lay off a teacher instead of a school counselor because of mandatory maintenance of effort requirements. She said the superintendent would have preferred to take the decision to the school board.

The committee did not adopt an amendment offered by Rep. Sandra Peterson (DFL-New Hope), which would have kept the requirement that some public hearing notices be published in a newspaper. They include notices of proposals to establish a district or an inter-district cooperative agreement, close a schoolhouse or impose a new student fee.

“I think school boards are very aware of the importance of various media in their districts,” said Rep. Kathy Brynaert (DFL-Mankato). “I think giving control to the local district is the right way to go on these issues.”

The bill now goes to the House K-12 Education Finance Division. It has no Senate companion.

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