Legislative Update

by Valerie Dosland, Government Affairs Director, Ewald Consulting, MASA Lobbyist

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Valerie Dosland
Government Affairs Director
Ewald Consulting
MASA Lobbyist

The 2019 legislative session is well underway, and the place is starting to get into a rhythm. The new members in the House have been learning how that place works, the new committee chairs have gotten more comfortable chairing committees, and legislation is beginning to move through their required steps. The Governor has appointed his administration and many new staff, and he’s released his first budget recommendations.

While awaiting the Governor’s budget recommendations, committees have been hearing individual bills introduced by House and Senate members. MASA has worked with key legislators to advance our priorities and we have been partnering with the other education organizations where we have the same interests on advancing legislation. A majority of MASA’s legislative priorities have been introduced to date. Legislation has been introduced to increase the per-pupil formula, increase funding for school safety measures, fund the special education cross-subsidy, make changes to the special education funding formula, reduce special education mandates, and allow school boards the authority to renew an expiring referendum by board vote.

On February 19, Governor Walz released his budget recommendations. While his recommendations are not exactly as our priorities, they are very much in line with the MASA legislative platform. His E12 education priorities include:

  • An additional $189 in the per-pupil formula in FY20, a 3% increase and an additional $130 in FY21, a 2% increase.
  • $77 million increase over the biennium in a new special education formula to ensure no district’s cross-subsidy increases.
  • Allowing school boards to renew an expiring referendum by board action but along with that voters would be able revoke the board renewed authority in a reverse referendum; districts would have to provide notice to voters that the referendum may be renewed by the school board; and this authority would only apply to any referendums approved after July 1, 2019.
  • An increase in safe schools revenue for from $36 to $45 in FY20 and to $54 in FY21
  • $4 million per year increase for the Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers programs and $2 million per year for teacher mentor, induction, and retention program grants.
  • $10 million increase over the biennium for school-linked mental health grants.
  • $4 million for full-service community schools.
  • An $8 million increase over the biennium to expand the regional centers of excellence system.
  • $59 million to maintain funding for VPK/SR Plus.

With the release of the Governor’s budget recommendations, the focus now turns to the House and Senate who will review his priorities and then begin crafting their own, in the form of omnibus appropriations bills. The first step in that process is the establishment of budget targets for each budget committees, likely to come out mid-late March. After that, both bodies began putting together the details of their appropriations bill. We will get a good look at the appropriations bills in early April.

Decisions haven’t been made yet, but the House and Senate are having conversations and deciding what their next steps will be. So now is an excellent time to remind your local legislators of the needs of your school districts. They rely on these connections and your advocacy makes a difference. Thanks for all you do!

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