Weary House members voted 70-55 May 18 to pass the conference committee report for the omnibus education finance bill.
Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington), a sponsor of HF934*/ SF1030, called it a “bold and beautiful bill” featuring reforms, including a teacher appraisal and effectiveness rating system; expanding school choice through a nonpublic school voucher program for some low-income students; a school report card A-to-F grading system; and changes to teacher tenure and bargaining rights that would prohibit teacher strikes, eliminate seniority-only employment decisions and create five-year renewable tenure. It would increase basic per pupil funding by $41 over the 2012-2013 biennium.
Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul) called it “an experiment with unsupportable proposals.”
“I see that there are many proven methods of increasing student achievement that are not included in the bill,” said Rep. Denise Dittrich (DFL-Champlin), including early childhood education and extended-time revenue.
The conference committee report passed the Senate 37-26 later in the morning where Sen. Gen Olson (R-Minnetrista) is its sponsor. It now awaits action by the governor.
$450 million increase or $44 million cut?
When the conference report was introduced on the House floor around 2 a.m., DFL members took turns speaking against funding changes and policy provisions they said would create “winners and losers” among state students.
“The inequities that plague education funding currently continue in this bill,” Dittrich said.
“If you’re a small, rural, isolated, declining-enrollment district with poor property wealth, you’re out of luck. No help. Get along, go along on your own. Do the best you can,” said Rep. Tom Anzelc (DFL-Balsam Township).
Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) distributed spreadsheets to members showing net gains in some school districts’ per pupil funding compared with baseline spending and losses in others districts, with Duluth, Minneapolis and St. Paul “clearly the biggest losers.”
According to Garofalo, the bill’s target of $14.13 billion for the 2012-13 biennium would increase funding by $450 million in additional state aid. According to Greiling, it represents a $44 million cut that would hit Duluth, Minneapolis and St. Paul, especially hard, but would also result in per pupil net cuts to many other districts throughout the state.
Each sees the same numbers differently, with Garofalo comparing them to prior year spending and Greiling to the base budget.
“I don’t know of any person in this body who campaigned to cut K-12 education. But that’s what we’re looking at tonight, in the middle of the night,” Greiling said.
The voucher proposal drew particular opposition from DFL members.
Mariani said the plan “sucks money out of our public education system and sends it off to private institutions. With this voucher program we’re just going to hand over $17 million with minimal accountability. And that’s on top of the $11 million tax credit” for private school tuition proposed in the tax bill passed earlier that day.
Rep. Kelby Woodard (R-Belle Plaine) said the scholarships would offer one more school choice option that empowers parents.
“If parents decide this is not an option they want to take, the money never leaves,” he said.
The bill would eliminate integration rule, or the statute that requires school districts to establish measures to promote racial integration at school sites within a district or in collaboration with nearby districts. Mariani said the move makes no sense during a time when multicultural skills are more necessary than ever in a global economy and increasingly diverse state.
It would repeal integration aid in fiscal year 2012, to be partially replaced with innovation transition achievement revenue and literacy aid. Compensatory revenue — a complex formula based on district and site concentrations of students in poverty — would be delinked from the basic formula and fixed at $4,179 per eligible pupil. Combined, the cuts would affect Duluth, Minneapolis and St. Paul schools most, DFL members said.
Garofalo said lawmakers had accommodated some of the governor’s positions including restoring part of the regular and excess special education aid growth factor and removing a proposal to close the Perpich Center for Arts Education as a state agency.
He said May 17 that the voucher issue had come up in conversations with Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius, but would not characterize her or the governor’s position on the bill or say if he thinks it’s headed for a veto.
Waiting for the governor’s final grade
Omnibus education bill nears finish line
(view full story) Published 4/27/2012
Last in, first out … out or in?
Conference committee weighs benefits of changing teacher layoff practices
(view full story) Published 3/30/2012
Education advocate is moving on
Rep. Mindy Greiling announces she won’t seek re-election
(view full story) Published 2/3/2012
Withholding state funds from schools
Education finance law keeps $780 million for other General Fund spending
(view full story) Published 8/11/2011
First try at K-12 finance bill fails
Dayton says special education cuts ‘would create significant funding gaps’
(view full story) Published 7/15/2011
‘Bold and beautiful’ or full of inequities?
Confusion exists whether K-12 bill increases or cuts funding
(view full story) Published 5/20/2011
Minnesota Index: Teaching and learning
Facts and statistics about education in Minnesota
(view full story) Published 5/20/2011
Lands set apart
Permanent School Fund management, income potential explored
(view full story) Published 5/13/2011
‘Social promotion’ to promote literacy
Third-graders could repeat if they can’t read
(view full story) Published 4/29/2011
Historic St. Paul walkout
Illegal action changed teacher bargaining; a new debate rises over right to strike
(view full story) Published 4/15/2011
Changes in education
House approves omnibus education finance bill
(view full story) Published 4/1/2011
Education finance bill offers bold reforms
Quantity not as key as quality, says DFL
(view full story) Published 3/25/2011
A voucher by any other name
Bill would create limited scholarships for low-income students
(view full story) Published 3/18/2011
Fewer days, longer hours
Some districts find four-day school week works as a budget fix
(view full story) Published 2/18/2011
First Reading: ‘Pitting the good against the good’
Proposed lift of safe schools mandate is a tough call
(view full story) Published 2/4/2011
The goal: 25,000 new teachers
Bush Foundation commits big bucks to revamp teacher training
(view full story) Published 1/28/2011
First Reading: Alternative teacher mindset
Tackling the achievement gap one classroom at a time
(view full story) Published 1/21/2011