DISTRICT LEGISLATIVE GOALS
During the legislative sessions, we often send information to the legislators who represent the communities comprising our district. It is important to the school board and for district purposes for us to share information. We try to provide information about bills or pending legislation as well as explain the impact on the ROCORI Schools.
Recently, a letter was sent to our legislators to describe some of the issues that are important. I will share the topics we emphasized with legislators. As I told Representative Howe and Senator Fischbach, they are not necessarily in “priority” order, but they are important to our district!
GENERAL EDUCATION FORMULA
We know that there are a lot of options being presented at the capitol for school funding, but the one that provides the most flexibility for all school districts and best allows school districts to meet individual needs is an increase in the foundation aid formula. I was at a Schools for Equity in Education (SEE) meeting on a recent Friday morning where this idea was very clearly reinforced.
Because of history in legislative action, individual district decisions, community influence, and events that occur, each district has unique needs and requirements. Again, the best way to address these needs is to provide basic foundation aid to schools.
I know that the Governor’s proposal called for a 1% increase to the formula. I would certainly hope, with a projected positive budget situation and the knowledge that the state has two Constitutional requirements (schools and transportation), that we can do better than the Governor’s proposal.
To be honest, a 1% increase means that school districts across the state (including ROCORI) will be back in the business of making budget reductions. Simply moving our staff through our existing salary schedules costs at least 1.5% each year. As a district, we asked our legislators to support the legislative efforts which would increase the basic general education formula by $300 per pupil unit, per year, to address the current rate of inflation and persistent underfunding of the basic formula.
As you review this item, there are definitely different opinions regarding issues of teacher seniority. The note to our legislators was written from the school board and district perspective. Although we understand that our contracts and current legislation have provisions based on seniority, it does not mean that we would be opposed to change.
My letter to the legislators pointed out the it is important to “Allow school districts to retain the most effective teachers, regardless of seniority, to assure the highest quality learning experiences for all students. It is my understanding that legislation is moving through the House (although the Senate companion is still at committee) to address these issues.”
I offered an update from the state superintendent organization. The following summary was included: “HF2, the bill that makes changes to LIFO, out-of-state teacher licensure and the MTLE exam, amended and passed out of House Education Finance committee. An author’s amendment was adopted. The biggest change to the bill was that it extended the implementation time to the 2017-2018 school year rather than the 2016-2017 school year.
“Next stop is debate on the House floor and vote by the entire House. SF473, the Senate companion, has yet to receive a hearing in the Senate Education Committee.” As a district, we are supportive of these changes and would encourage legislative support of these efforts as well.
Q COMP/TEACHER EVALUATION FUNDING
Over the past two SEE (Schools for Equity in Education) meetings, we have heard considerable information about the issue of addressing the gap between schools that have been funded with Q Comp revenue and those that do not have access to the funds. The ROCORI School District does not receive Q Comp funding.
We did complete, and secure approval, of a Q Comp application at the end of last summer but the Q Comp funds were completely exhausted; as such, we are “next in line” if funding opens.
From our perspective, the best step would not be to simply add more dollars to “Q Comp” but, as a state Task Force on this issue has suggested in its findings to the legislature, extend equity in the program by providing the funding for all schools across the state.
Our rationale is fairly simple. The teacher and principal evaluation processes are required, through legislative action, of all districts. The funding to complete the tasks required in those actions needs to follow. The best way to address this is to extend the Q Comp funding to all Minnesota schools.
This was the first part of our communication with area legislators. Next week, I will return to the topic of legislative efforts with the remainder of the items we supported.