School board continues drafting legislative platform

The Osseo Area School Board continued drafting its 2017 legislative platform during a Dec. 20 work group meeting.

Proposed changes to the platform were minor, and included reorganization and rewording of platform line items. The final platform will be discussed and potentially approved at the board’s Jan. 3 meeting. The board’s draft platform is focused on funding and changes to tenure law.

Funding

Funding through state aid is determined in part by the state’s per pupil funding formula. Based on the number of pupils in a district, the formula calculates the amount of base funding provided to every school district in the state. The current formula dictates that districts receive $6,067 per pupil.

The board would like the basic education funding formula to increase at the same rate as inflation. Patricia Magnuson, executive director of finance and operations for the district, said that roughly 70 percent of general fund revenue – in the form of state aid – is tied to the basic education funding formula.

If the formula were linked to inflation, the formula would be at $6,617 per pupil rather than $6,067, Magnuson said.

Originally, the board had this item listed first on its platform, but has since moved it to the third item on the platform.

The platform also addresses special education funding. The second item on the draft platform reads: “Increase special education funding to reduce the State share of the special education funding shortfall by 25 percent per year over the next four years.”

This portion will be reworded before a final draft is approved, but will continue to urge lawmakers to increase the subsidy for special education.

Special education will be the second item listed on the platform.

The district’s platform includes a request for continued funding of voluntary pre-kindergarten programs.

Currently, building lease levy and long-term facilities maintenance revenue cannot be used for remodeling, expanding or modifying district buildings for extra space or enhanced security. The district wants the state to expand the uses of these levies and revenue streams to allow for remolding expenditures, according to the draft platform.

The district received a compensatory pilot grant from the state in fiscal year 2015. The platform includes a request to continue these $660,000 grants through fiscal year 2018 and beyond.

Tenure

Minnesota law classifies cities based on their population. First class cities have more than 100,000 inhabitants. Second class have a population between 20,001 and 100,000, third class have a population between 10,001 and 20,000 and fourth class cities have not more than 10,000 inhabitants. Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester and Duluth are the state’s only first class cities.

State law regarding teacher’s contracts and tenure are different for first class cities than they are for all other cities. For instance, under the Continuing Contract Statute, which applies to all second class or smaller cities and school boards, the probationary period for teachers and principals is one year. However, under the Teacher Tenure Act; Cities of the First Class, the probationary period for the same teacher or principal is three years long.

Similar discrepancies exist in the law regarding mid-year termination of a probationary teacher. Second class and lower cities have no provision for immediate termination of a teacher, while first class cities can terminate immediately after a 30-day notice, leaving the teacher no right to appeal.

Internally hired principals in first class cities can face up to four years of probation, whereas the same principal would face no required probationary period in a non-first class city.

Schools in first class cities can terminate a teacher’s employment at any time for just cause, without any requirement for notice of contract non-renewal. In non first-class cities, notice must be given to the teacher by April 1. If notice is given after April 1, another year must go by before non-renewal of a contract. However, in some cases, contracts can be terminated immediately. The grounds are similar enough that they lead to inconsistent and unclear results, according to the district.

Superintendent Kate Maguire said it’s not clear why state law regarding city size and tenure is inconsistent.

The board said these inconsistencies make it more difficult to retain or remove the most or least effective staff members. One platform item includes modifying the Continuing Contract Statute to align with the Teacher Tenure Act; Cities of the First Class.

While this item was presented in the draft as the fourth item, the board decided to move this item to be first on the list.

Many of the items on the Osseo School District platform align with the Association of Metropolitan School District’s legislative platform. Boardmember Dean Henke said the final platform should note where both the Osseo and Association of Metropolitan School District platforms align.

Boardmember Robert Gerhart said the final platform should include the size of the district.