Yes the legislature is off and running again this spring. As of last Wednesday, the 20th of February there have been over 80 bills introduced dealing with schools, both policy and funding bills. One of these was, of course, Governor Dayton’s budget proposal for K-12 schools, of which is not kind to our district.
We were, in fact, of regular public schools (charters withstanding) in the bottom 20 of all districts as for additional revenue over the next two years in this proposal. I don’t mean in the bottom 20 percent, but the bottom 20, which would put us in the bottom 5 percent of all districts in the state.
Now don’t get me wrong here, I am certainly not complaining that the Governor has proposed to add funding to schools, but there should seem to be a way to balance out these dollars to all the districts. There are some districts that stand to get three times the amount per pupil that we as a district will receive for an increase.
Anyway, there are also other bills of interest. School start dates have come up again with a bill to start before Labor Day out there. I have worked in districts where school started before and now after Labor Day, and personally I prefer the later start. Funding for full day kindergarten is getting some attention from the lawmakers this year and that is a good idea. We have offered full day kindergarten at no charge to our district’s students for a good number of years, while many districts charge thousands of dollars in order to offer this service.
Repeal of the requirement of a math graduation exam and replacement with an end of course Algebra exam is proposed. This doesn’t follow fully the recommendation of the Governor’s task force on graduation exams, but then neither does his budget proposal follow many of the task force’s recommendations for school finance.
Finally, the payment shift that was enacted to help balance the budget for the last two years was a campaign platform for many state politicians, and as such has come to the front of the session for many lawmakers. The shift was an inconvenience for many districts that were forced to borrow and pay interest on these funds to operate.
Delaying these funds to districts, while not ideal, was certainly better than the alternative of substantial decreases in funding across the state. I would much rather see additional dollars from the state increase funding for schools on an equitable basis than use all the money to pay back the shift. I know I am not alone in this thought.
Thanks for your support of our district’s kids. See you in the paper.
Brian Corlett is superintendent of Central Public Schools.