Once the Minnesota State Fair corn dogs are just a memory, back to school will be upon us – and with it brings exciting new opportunities, new challenges and fresh faces in the classroom.

Whether it’s your first day of kindergarten, your first day of high school or college – or perhaps you’re learning a new skill and you’ve found your way back to the classroom after years of work – I wish you all a great first day.

Last session, I worked with my colleagues on public education to achieve the following results:

• The education omnibus bill (HF1) provides an additional $543 million in new spending for public schools in Minnesota over the next two years. This equates to a 2% increase each year in the basic funding formula for daily operating expenses.

• Recognizing the importance of pre-kindergarten education, the bill provides $46.7 million in FY 20-21 to continue School Readiness Plus, which was implemented in the 2017 session. This investment will ensure that 4,000 pre-k seats will be available to young learners past July 1. No funding increase for the early childhood scholarship program was included in the final agreement.

• A top priority for school districts across the state was providing additional state help for special education expenses that are being paid for with general education dollars. Funding to freeze the special education cross subsidy was set at $90.7 million in FY20-21 and $142.2 million.

• School safety grants are set at $30 million, contingent upon a closing balance of state funds for FY19 exceeding the February forecast estimated closing balance.

• The award-winning Race2Reduce water conservation program initiated in the White Bear Lake Area School District receives $50,000 in one-time funds for FY 2020. Now in its fourth year, Race2Reduce has had a significant and documented impact. Students who have experienced this curriculum have not only acquired knowledge about water resource issues, but they also have developed advocacy skills, changed personal behaviors and influenced others to be more conservation minded. 

• To address dyslexia, the Professional Licensing and Standards Board must adopt rules on reading preparation to enable a teacher to implement appropriate instructional strategies.

• To accommodate this year’s snow day emergencies, school districts will not be penalized for calling off school on days lost to Minnesota’s cold, snowy winter. Pay provisions for hourly and contract employees and provisions for probationary teachers were included in the bill.

• I sponsored a Minnesota Reads Action Council (SF81) that would evaluate programs designed to increase the reading proficiency of children and adults, and advise the commissioner of education. The provision was not included in the final bill, but I will pursue this next session.

In the legislative session that begins at noon Feb. 11, 2020, lawmakers will likely debate significant education policy changes and school funding issues. Please stay engaged! Now is a critical time to get involved with your schools. Public education needs your support. Local control is the best strategy for achieving effective schools and creating the World’s Best Workforce.

The new school year also calls for some reminder tips that will help kids and parents get back into the swing of things. The following tips are provided by leaders in Minnesota’s teaching profession.

1. Get to know your child’s teachers and support staff at the beginning of the year.

2. Let them know that you want feedback on your child’s progress during the school year, as well as how you want to receive it – email, text message, phone or even in person.

3. Set a regular place and time for your child to work on homework.

4. Establish a distraction free “learning zone” (away from the TV, tablet or other distractions).

5. While you’re at it, set a bedtime, too. Research shows that the quality and quantity of sleep has a profound impact on learning.

6. Read as much as possible.

Find more back-to-school tips at edmoments.com.

I wish your children well as they embark on a new grade level full of fresh beginnings. I hope you introduce yourself to their teachers, read many books together, and help instill a thirst for learning.

 

I can be reached by email at sen.chuck.wiger@senate.mn and by phone at 651-296-6820 or by cell at 651-770-0283.

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