Edina School Board Formally Presents Legislative Priorities

budget_vote_.jpgFor the first time, the Edina School Board created a Legislative Action Committee (LAC). Because most funding, educational mandates, and guidelines come from State government, the Edina School Board wanted to be able to give our elected officials their priorities for the next legislative session. A committee of 9, headed by board members Ellen Jones and Owen Michaelson helped identify their priorities.

On Monday January 7, the LAC presented their priorities to our elected officials, Senator Melisa Franzen, Representative Heather Edelson, and Representative Steve Elkins. Here are the major concerns:
1. Stabilize Education Funding
2. Increase State Funding for Mandated Special Education Programs
3. Reduce Mandates and Increase Local Control, in Order to Raise the Achievement Level of All Students
4. Ensure Safe and Modern School Facilities
5. Increase and Diversify the Teacher Workforce

These are all comparably important. Details about each priority are below. Here is one example of why these issues are important to our schools: Spending on Special Education is one area that is mandated by both the federal and state governments, but is only partially funded. In 2017 this shortfall in Minnesota was $617.0 million. It is called a cross-subsidy because $617.0 million had to be taken from the budgets of regular programs (teachers, classes, etc.) and spent on special education. The Board's message was that this isn’t right and the legislature needs to fund what it mandates.

Our legislators listened and said they would try to work on these priorities. However, in their 2019 session they will be faced with many issues that need funding and may compromise on competing needs. Citizens may contact these elected officials individually to support funding for school priorities.

1. Stabilize Education Funding

• Increase the basic formula allowance by 3 percent per year and index the formula to inflation in future years to allow school districts to budget more effectively.
• Reject legislative proposals that divert money from public schools.
• Allow locally-elected school boards to renew existing operating referendum.

2. Increase State Funding for Mandated Special Education Programs

• Increase special education funding to reduce the district share of special education cross-subsidy by 10% annually.
• Create a working group to develop a plan to eliminate the state share of the cross-subsidy by 2023.

3. Reduce Mandates and Increase Local Control in Order to Raise the Achievement Level of All Students

• Reduce Mandated state standardized testing
• Federal and state mandates should have a clearly articulated purpose, which is revisited regularly to check for relevance and alignment with other policy goals.
• Policy makers should provide the funding necessary to comply with mandates.

4. Ensure Safe and Modern School Facilities

• Establish a school facilities improvement revenue program to allow school districts to enhance safety.
• Increase the Safe Schools levy and expand the allowable uses to allow school districts to enhance cyber security and increase funding for counselors and mental health services.

5. Increase and Diversify the Teacher Workforce

• Expand programs and incentives to attract, develop and retain teachers, particularly teachers of color and teachers in shortage areas.

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