The preview provides an opportunity for legislators to hear the priorities of AMSD member school districts and discuss important education issues. AMSD member school districts collectively serve more than half of the public-school students in Minnesota.
Two AMSD superintendents — Dr. Laurie Putnam of St. Cloud Area School District 742 and Dr. Jason Berg of the Farmington Area School District — joined AMSD Chair Marcus Hill of District 197 / Mendota Heights-West St. Paul-Eagan in highlighting AMSD’s 2024 AMSD Legislative Platform.
All three presenters thanked legislators for the significant investments approved in the 2023 session. They especially expressed gratitude for the important progress made to add stability to the funding system including linking the formula to inflation, allowing school boards to renew an operating referendum, and reducing the shortfalls in the special education and English learner programs. At the same time, they noted that historic inflation, staffing shortages, and new programs and requirements adopted in the 2023 session continue to squeeze school districts’ budgets.
Chair Hill offered the analogy of how balancing a household budget is not significantly different than meeting a district budget’s bottom line — and how increased expenses and the loss of revenue — such as the end of federal pandemic relief fund- ing — has left many school districts facing significant challenges. While the federal funding is coming to an end, there is still tremendous work to do to help students recover from the pandemic.
All three presenters stressed the importance of continuing to stabilize the education funding system by:
Superintendents Putnam and Berg echoed Chair Hill’s themes, each sharing a local perspective — and the challenges of balancing a budget while also facing nonnegotiable costs such as utilities, transportation, and contractual obligations.
The preview concluded with a legislative panel discussion that featured four leaders from the House and Senate Education Policy Committees — Rep. Josiah Hill (DFL-Stillwater), Rep. Peggy Bennett (R-Albert Lea), Sen. Julia Coleman (R-Waconia) and Sen. Steve Cwodzinski (DFL-Eden Prairie). The four legislators outlined some of their education priorities for the 2024 session and previewed a few of the issues they expect to come before them during the session.