More than 120 education leaders — superintendents, school board members and district staff — and more than 30 state legislators turned out for the annual AMSD Legislative Preview on Jan. 4 at the Quora Education Center (Intermediate School District 916), to learn about the upcoming 2019 legislative session which began Jan. 8.
The annual AMSD event, which this year included remarks from the incoming Commissioner of Education Mary Cathryn Ricker, precedes each session. The event brings together metro area legislators and education leaders to discuss important education issues and provides legislators the opportunity to hear a presentation of the AMSD platform as they prepare for the upcoming session.
The preview also allows member districts to communicate with legislators how the platform issues affect their districts directly.
All five points are explained in detail in the platform.
In addition to sharing the platform, several AMSD superintendents provided context at the preview to show how their districts are directly impacted by state policies.
Supt. David Law of Anoka-Hennepin Schools, for example, presented about the importance of racial equity work with regard to closing opportunity gaps for students — and how by recruiting and retaining teachers of color, Anoka-Hennepin has seen direct impacts on student performance.
Law also emphasized the importance of — and state obligation for — education funding.
Law noted that a funding increase of even 3 percent on the basic formula for education in 2019 — and indexing it to inflation — would still leave his district in the red by more than $300,000 in the coming year.
Rising costs were a theme echoed by Supt. Carlton Jenkins of Robbinsdale, who emphasized that the special education cross-subsidy (the amount by which special education expenditures exceed revenue provided by the state and federal governments), if unaddressed, could force his district to divert more than $15 million of general fund dollars to subsidize special education.
“The chronic underfunding of special education services stresses the budgets of school districts across the state,” Jenkins said.
Superintendents Connie Hayes of Intermediate School District 916 and Teri Staloch of Prior Lake-Savage also spoke to the group about student mental health challenges, school safety, and the importance of property taxpayer equity based on wealth disparities between districts.
“These disparities should be addressed in the Omnibus Tax Bill,” Staloch said.
The preview wrapped with a legislative panel that featured Reps. Jim Davnie (DFL-Minneapolis) and Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton), and Sens. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) and Chuck Wiger (DFL- Maplewood).
Davnie is the chair of the House Education Finance Committee, and Erickson is the ranking minority member of the House Education Policy Committee. Nelson is the chair of the Senate Committee on E-12 Finance and Policy, and Wiger is the ranking minority member for the DFL.