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Education Bills Pave Strange Path for Lakeville, Minnesota School Districts

Both house and senate education bills add and decrease funding from different money pots. All told, Lakeville may come out about even.

Last week, Minnesota’s Senate passed ten of the major bills that make up financing state government and its programs. From agriculture and consumer protection, to jobs and economic growth, to the state government operations bills, most were passed on party-line votes and, according to State Sen. Dave Thompson (R-District 36) of Lakeville, the bills create a budget “we can pay for without raising taxes.”

But the bill which may have the largest impact on Lakeville is the K-12 Education bill. Both the House and the Senate passed their own versions of the massive package that will determine how education is paid for over the next two years.

And with Lakeville’s public school district coming off a year where it and , the proposal is especially important for local educators.

State Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-District 36B), of Farmington, who chairs the house education committee, led crafting of the House bill, which actually increases state funding for public education.

According to both bills, which are very similar, Lakeville schools are actually in line to see a $100 per student increase in state funding in 2012, going from $8,818 per student to $8,918. That’s more than $1.1 million in additional funding for Lakeville, which is Minnesota’s tenth largest district with 11,051 students.

But that news isn’t all good for school supporters.

The increase in state funding comes from a grant, and the money is for just one year. By 2013, Lakeville will receive just $3 more per pupil than it did this year. And while $3 more is better than a decrease, enrollment is projected to fall off by more than 100 students by 2013. An enrollment decline of 100 students is nearly $1 million in revenue.

Also, both bills freeze special education reimbursement and reallocate money currently being used by Lakeville’s school .

According to the house bill, Lakeville would lose $47 per pupil in special education funding in 2012, and since special education spending is federally mandated, if Lakeville gets less in state aid, it means the difference will need to come out of the district’s general fund.

At this point though, it’s too soon to say what the specific impact the special education and integration pieces would mean for Lakeville’s budget.

Beyond district impacts, the Senate bill reforms teacher tenure practice, making it so tenure is granted in five-year blocks, and is subject to renewal by a school board based on specific standards. The bill also allows districts to waive the “last-in-first-out law,” and offers a temporary salary freeze for school employees for two years.

Beyond education, State Rep. Mary Liz Holberg (R-District 36A), of Lakeville, led discussion of the house’s omnibus transportation bill which also passed last week.

The bill was somewhat controversial because it cuts general fund dollars for Twin Cities bus, light-rail and commuter rail by more than $60 million a year, though Holberg has proposed taking some local sales tax money that is designated by law to be spent on light rail and express buses and putting it into the general fund to pay for the cuts made in the transportation bill.

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