STMA to legislature: fix equity, unfunded mandates

Board approves legislative resolutions

The St. Michael-Albertville School District signed off on five bullet points improvement areas for the 2014 legislature to consider, including greater equity and fixing unfunded mandates.

 

LEGISLATURE

Supt. Jim Behle noted that school board chairperson Doug Birk is a member of the Minnesota School Boards Association (MSBA) Delegate Assembly, and that he and Birk drafted a proposed Legislative Resolution for board approval.

The resolution would be presented at the MSBA Delegate Assembly. Behle did recognize the 2013 legislature for making education a priority and significantly investing in Minnesota students in early childhood, kindergarten through grade 12 and higher education. He also acknowledged the work of Schools for Equity in Education and applauded the legislature for fully funding all-day kindergarten, adding 1.5 percent to the basic formula, and providing revenue to reduce the special education cross-subsidy.

But the superintendent did said one session can’t make up for more than a decade of inadequate and inequitable school funding.

Birk said he was optimistic that the proposed resolution supported by the board would add continued momentum so progress would continue, by making key investments in the K-12 public education system.

Birk and board members Drew Scherber, Gayle Weber and Carol Steffens (board members Holland and Lindquist absent) approved the following resolutions:

Be it resolved, that an investment in equity funding and in equalization aid is crucial to reduce the differences between the highest and lowest funded school district for those school districts that do not generate considerable revenue through categorical formulas or are not able to pass large referendum levies.

Rationale:

• With the improving economy, the 2014 Legislative Session can continue making progress in its investment in Minnesota’s K-12 public education system.

• Unfunded mandates such as proposed anti-bullying policy, teacher evaluation requirements and cross subsidies for special education have a greater impact on low revenue school districts.

• The options for board approved levies up to $300 and location equity revenue did not increase funding for all low revenue Minnesota school districts, especially those that do not generate considerable revenue through categorical formulas.

• Location equity funding is subtracted from the referendum allowance and will permit high property wealth school districts to seek $212 or $424 revenue increases through voter-approved levies; thereby increasing the disparity between low and high revenue school districts.

• The higher amount of $424 in location equity revenue for school districts with property in the seven county metro area is not available to districts whose boundaries are abutting the seven county metro area and are bordering school districts who are receiving the higher amount but yet experience the higher education cost of the metro area.

 

PRELIMINARY LEVY

In other action, Supt. Behle said he did not have preliminary levy numbers for approval due to the state needing to make corrections after changes in the last legislative session.

Behle said the board’s options are to wait until the preliminary numbers are available and meet Sept. 30 and request a waiver from the county to postpone certification; or certify the maximum amount set by the state.

Behle said the board certified the maximum in the past, but this year would need to discuss and decide if it wants to levy additional dollars for the Q-Comp (quality compensation teacher program), reminding the board that last spring it had a brief discussion and said it would consider levying additional dollars.

Q-comp is a voluntary program that allows school districts and exclusive representatives of the teachers to design and collectively bargain a plan that meets the five components of the law. The five components under Q Comp include Career Ladder/Advancement Options, Job-embedded Professional Development, Teacher Evaluation, Performance Pay, and an Alternative Salary Schedule.

Approved school districts receive up to $260 per student ($169 per student in state aid and $91 per student in board-approved levy) for the program. Behle said for STMA, the state contributes 60 cents of each dollar levied.

He said the board has options to consider; for example, if the board chose to levy the full amount of $91 per pupil, generating an additional $565,225, the tax levy would be $214,869 after equalization. Additionally, he said a fixed dollar amount must be set on all accounts, so the Q-Comp levy amount would need to be determined prior to certifying the preliminary levy.

STMA teachers expressed concern that if they approve Q-Comp, the board would consider Q-Comp compensation as part of teacher negotiations. But Behle said Q-Comp is a categorical program, and the funds are not considered part of the general fund and not intended to supplant existing dollars.

The board agreed to delay action on the preliminary levy until Sept. 30; additionally the board agreed the Q-Comp dollars would not affect negotiations “whatsoever.”

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