Increases per-pupil funding, relieves mandates and makes significant reforms
St. Paul – Delivering on its “Kids first, no exceptions, no excuses” priority, the Minnesota House Education Finance Committee today passed its K-12 education finance bill 12-7. Committee Chair Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said the bill shows an effort to prioritize funding while reforming the way the K-12 education system works.
“This is the most ambitious education bill I’ve seen in my six years in the Legislature,” Garofalo said. “It meets and exceeds our commitment to classroom funding by increasing the per-pupil levels over the next three years. It also carries substantial reforms that have been in the works for years but never made it through to reality. This year, were ready to deliver.”
Under the bill, per-pupil funding would steadily increase from $5,124 to $5,250 in 2014. The bill also repeals integration funding aid. A 2005 report from the Legislative Auditor found numerous faults with the program, leading lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to question its effectiveness. Most of the money from the repeal is still being given to the same schools, but with a focus on student achievement and academic performance. Garofalo said another $17 million will go into a new pilot program aimed at reducing the achievement gap.
Schools would be graded on a new A-F grading system under one of the bill’s many reform provisions. A-F grading is modeled after a successful Florida initiative, and schools that score the highest would receive funding bonuses. The bill also creates a new teacher evaluation system. Evaluations would be based 50-percent on student achievement and 50-percent on locally-determined factors. These evaluations would replace the ‘last hired, first fired’ system and change the focus to retaining the most effective teachers.
“If we continue to rest on our laurels, well get leap-frogged by other states more willing to take on reform challenges,” Garofalo said. “A-F school grading and teacher evaluation changes are big steps forward. We owe it to kids to do this heavy lifting so we’re providing the best world-class education possible.”
The bill contains no reductions to Head Start, School Readiness or ECFE. It would also prohibit the state from delaying aid payments to certain schools in order to avoid the state having to use short-term borrowing to cover its cash flow. Mandate relief in the bill includes repealing the maintenance-of-effort for the safe school levy and repealing the 2-percent staff development set aside, among other removals.
Other highlights include:
- Providing opportunity scholarships to low-income Minneapolis and St. Paul students in failing schools;
- Continuing the 70/30 school funding shift passed in 2010;
- A performance-based principal evaluation system starting in the 2013-14 school year;
Changes to teacher contract negotiations include:
- Moving contract negotiations to the summer, outside the regular school year;
- Requiring binding arbitration if both sides cannot agree during summer negotiations;
- Repealing the January 15 salary settlement mandate that cost schools more than $3 million since 2006;
- Makes teachers essential employees, protecting communities from divisive strikes.