With a strong bipartisan vote, Senate Republicans today passed a K-12 education finance bill that spends $18.5 billion on our schools over the next two years, a $1.1 billion increase over last biennium. Included in that amount is $300 million in new money above the forecast, 95% of which is targeted to the general education formula, helping every school district in the state.
While funding is important, the bill also contains important policy measures including changes to the way teachers in Minnesota are licensed and continued emphasis on getting all students proficient in reading by third grade.
“This bill focuses significant state resources on providing opportunities for all Minnesota students to receive an education that prepares them for the jobs of tomorrow, said Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester), chair of the Senate Education Finance Committee. “Education is the great equalizer, therefore it is critical we provide schools with the resources they need to keep up with rising costs, so they can best prepare tomorrow’s workforce.”
The bill increases the general education revenue an average of $118 in 2018 and $230 in 2019. Senate Republicans also provide funding for an additional 35,000 students statewide, expected growth in special education numbers ($330 million), the completed phase-in of the new Long-Term Facilities Maintenance Aid program ($131 million), and projected increases for Adult Basic Education ($4.6 million).
The teacher licensing reform will help prevent a teacher shortage and get qualified teachers into the classroom more efficiently, including teachers of color. The bill focuses on rewarding highly effective teachers and districts growing their own effective teachers. The new system follows the recommendations of the Office of Legislative Auditor and a bipartisan Legislative Study Group on Educator Licensing.
“The new teacher licensing system will get teachers entering the profession from another career and teachers with experience in other states into the classroom faster, said Sen. Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake), Chair of the Senate Education Policy Committee. “The state needs to get out of the way of local principals and superintendents and trust them to hire qualified and effective teachers for our classrooms.”
Other provisions include:
- $9.3 million increase over the biennium for making permanent a compensatory revenue pilot program in several school districts who are serving large – but dispersed – numbers of students from lower-income families.
- $6 million for the data-based Reading Corps ($12.6 million in the “tails”) and $600,000 ($3.5 million in the “tails”) for the Math Corps tutors who work throughout Minnesota public schools.
- $1.5 million in grants to schools to encourage low-income and underserved students to enroll in AP and IB courses.
- $3 million for a rural Career and Technical Education (CTE) consortium to increase CTE courses, programs, and skills in southwest Minnesota (additional $6 million in grant opportunities for southeast and northern Minnesota will become available in the following biennium).
- $500,000 for agricultural educators who work with high school students over the summer months when “hands-on” learning can be applied outside of the classroom.
- $2 million for early learning scholarships and the inclusion of children from birth to five in the early learning program.
- “E-Learning Days” are allowed for schools wishing to conduct digital courses on bad-weather days to prevent having to lengthen the school calendar at the end of the year.
- Reduction of school mandates by allowing notices of referendum elections to be sent bulk mail rather than first class (a savings of thousands of dollars to individual school districts) and a rolling back of student demographic data required to be collected under a 2016 law. Other mandate reductions are offered to school districts that form “innovation zone” partnerships.
- Strengthening of the “Reading By Third Grade” law and the creation of a “Dyslexia Specialist” at the Department of Education to advance Minnesota literacy.