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St. James Plaindealer - St. James, MN
  • Governor’s proposed education budget draws reaction from local education professionals

  • Governor Mark Dayton last week proposed his state budget. Included in that overall budget was his proposed budget for public education.
    Details of the proposed budget include:
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  •     Governor Mark Dayton last week proposed his state budget. Included in that overall budget was his proposed budget for public education.
        
    Details  of the proposed budget include:
        Proposed $344 million for E-12 Education. The Governor’s budget increases E-12 funding by an average of $72 per student in FY2014 and an average $339 increase per student in FY2015 through these investments:
        Proposed $125 million for Special Education. The Governor’s budget invests in special education reform, providing needed funding and greater funding equity for schools.
        Proposed $118 million Increase on the Formula. The Governor’s budget increases investments in the school funding formula, providing $52 in new money for every student in the state.
        Proposed $44 million for Early Childhood Education Scholarships. The Governor’s budget provides scholarships that help 10,000 more children attend high quality child care and preschool.
        Proposed $40 million for All Day Kindergarten.    The Governor’s budget invests $40 million to help Minnesota school districts provide optional All-Day K to students free of charge.
        Proposed $10 Million for Teacher Evaluation. The Governor’s budget begins a new teacher evaluation system that supports teachers and will result in better student achievement.
        Proposed $8.9 million for English Language Learning. The Governor’s budget extends funding for ELL from 5 to 7 years to help develop language skills for full participation in the classroom.
        Proposed $9 million in Savings. The Governor’s budget achieves savings through forecast and accounting efficiencies.
        Proposed $4.5 million for Regional Centers of Excellence. The Governor’s budget establishes six new Regional Centers of Excellence to help the state’s most struggling schools, with a focus on Greater Minnesota.
        Proposed $1.8 million for Paperwork Reduction. The Governor’s budget permanently reduces special education paperwork, giving teachers more time in the classroom and less time filling out forms.
        Proposed $1 million for School Bullying Prevention. The Governor’s budget invests in a School Climate Center to provide guidance, training, and support to schools to create safer environments for students to learn.  
        St. James School District Superintendent Becky Cselovszki commented on the proposal, “The good news is the Governor has made education a priority in his budget. Although I see some changes that will benefit our local school district, there are a couple of other areas that concern me.
        “The proposal starts with a recommendation of a one percent increase in FY 14 to the general formula, which translates to $52 per pupil.
    Page 2 of 3 -     “That sounds good, but it goes on to recommend pupil weightings in the current formula be changed.
        “Kindergarten would go from a current .612 to a .55, grades 1-3 from 1.15 to 1.0, grades 4-6 from 1.060 to 1.0, and grades 7-12 from 1.3 to 1.2. So we get more on the formula, but each student generates less money towards that base formula, so it is not really a $52 per pupil increase.”
        Lee Carlson, who is President of Education Minnesota, St. James said, “Credit is due Governor Dayton for clearly starting with an investment approach to education in Minnesota, preschool to college, without using gimmicks. That was not the case for many years and it is a step in the right direction but he won't straighten out the mess quickly.
        “Additional credit aligns with his willingness to seek out input from educators. Governor Dayton is showing outstanding leadership by following through on his promise to increase funding for education.”
        Cselovszki continued,“There is also a provision for changing the extended time revenue, which would allow some additional funding and discretionary spending in the compensatory formula, if students were in school longer. Northside is needing to look at this concept due to its priority status, thus this might provide a few additional dollars for a change.
        “All-day Kindergarten stands to generate some additional funding in FY15, when the governor proposes to increase the pupil weight from .55 to .7 (keep in mind we are currently at .612). The original task force recommendation was for a weight of 1.0.
        “Education shift buy back-The Governor’s plan is to repay the shift by the end of the 2016-17 biennium. This will help for cash flow purposes for the district, but this is not “new” money and it was the hope of the educational task force and administrators around the state that the buy back would be more gradual, so that new money could be infused into a finance model that has seen stagnate funding for many years.
        “The Governor does increase funding in the area of special education by 13%. The changes are not until FY15. There is also a lot of emphasis on paperwork reduction in this area. If he gets this piece accomplished, he will be a hero in the eyes of special educators around the state of Minnesota.”
         Carlson said regarding the special education funding,  “Education funding is a complex issue and outcomes can be hard to recognize. For instance, more money for special ed funding means more money for all students as schools currently have to do a cross subsidy to find funding for special ed created by underfunded mandates from the government.”
    Page 3 of 3 -     Cselovszki said there were some unknows concerning the special education proposal, “I do not know of the model that he is proposing and I am assuming it would require more training for implementation, so hopefully the outcome is really a reduction in effort.”
        Cselovszki continued, “ELL-The funding was extended for these students from 5 to 7 years. This will generate a few additional dollars to support our ELL program.
        “Teacher Growth and Evaluation - in FY 15 there is $22 per student for districts not in Q-Comp (we are not) to assist with meeting the legislative requirements for teacher evaluation systems. St. James school district has been progressing with a model and has been very proactive with this legislation, so this money will aid in supporting those efforts that we already have in place.
        “Integration Aid - This is our CRIC program. There is a new formula being proposed which focuses on the minority district (which we are), thus we would see a bit more revenue in this area. The focus of this program would be on closing the achievement gap, which would allow more discretionary funding.
        “The last piece that is not directly tied to education, but when we talk referendum it matters is the proposal of a $500 homeowner’s rebate towards property tax. This looks like a one year rebate. In the educational task force this property tax reduction was more permanent and part of the educational formula to buy down existing operating referendums. This was what I consider to be the biggest disappointment in the budget. One time rebates are nice at the time, but long tern they so not help the system.
        The Superintendent indicated that even the proposed increased funding might fall short of the District’s needs when factoring in inflation, “It is amazing how so much money can result in so little when all is said and done. People need to realize that if St. James were to actually net a one percent increase in new revenue, then he problem is that our inflationary and settlement costs are around three percent. So financing our educational system remains a huge concern.”

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