Friends and Neighbors,
What a week at your state Capitol! I had the opportunity this week to get another hearing on my “Blue Alert” bill I also took part in the conference committee regarding the Governors pay increase bill. Please read in the “Hot Button” section of the update for more information. Have a great weekend!
Lawmakers and faith leaders take stand for religious freedom
On Monday, a bipartisan group of legislators joined leaders of various religious faiths to denounce religious persecution around the globe. The group introduced Senate File 15, a resolution asking President Obama and Governor Dayton to take additional steps to raise awareness for the subject and make religious freedom a higher priority.
We are fortunate to live in a country where we have freedom of religion. It’s easy to forget how lucky we are. Around the world, people of faith are more and more often being subjected to discrimination, violence, and even death for no other reason than their religious beliefs. The most recent in a long list of examples is the murder of 21 Christians in Egypt.
The U.S. State Department reported that in 2013, the world witnessed the largest displacement of religious communities in recent memory. According to Pew Research, Christians face persecution in 151 countries – more than any other religious group. Christians are the only religious group at risk in each of the 16 worst countries for religious persecution.
Education plan focuses on “Your School, Your Needs”
This week Senate Republicans introduced an innovative education funding bill that would provide a burst of funding directly to our classrooms while relieving districts of costly, burdensome state mandates that have long tied the hands of school boards, principals, and teachers. Here are the details:
Equitable funding for every child
The “Your School, Your Needs” funding bill would allocate an extra $175 per student for 2016 and $180 per student in 2017 – an increase of 3%. It is a fair, equitable funding method that treats every student in Minnesota exactly the same. For comparison, the governor proposed a 1% increase to the current education “formula” that distributes money unevenly across the state.
No strings attached
In the past, the legislature has forced schools to spend new money on very specific programs that may not align with students’ needs. Our plan comes with no strings attached, giving schools flexibility to spend the money on innovative new ideas that boost student achievement. Locally elected school boards and parents will get to decide how their students will benefit from this funding. This plan also allows schools to opt-out of any future mandates that are forced upon schools for the next two years.
Another key feature of the proposal is the “lockbox” provision. It allows school districts to set aside money for specific projects so it cannot be touched during negotiations or budget discussions. I hope our local school boards will take advantage of the lockbox provision to innovate in the classroom.
“Your School, Your Needs” is about trust and priorities. For years, the only answer to problems facing our education system has been funding increases. But as we increase funding, we also cause harm to school districts with hundreds of mandates that tell them exactly what to do with the money. Our bill places faith in local school boards and parents to determine how best to spend education dollars.
The needs of students in Douglas and Otter Tail Counties are not necessarily the same as the needs of students in Minneapolis, so why do we let bureaucrats in St. Paul make education decisions for everyone in Minnesota? “Your School, Your Needs” empowers our schools to come up with bold, innovative ideas and deliver the best possible education to our children, and I’m proud to support this plan.
Hot Button Issues:
This week I was put on the conference committee to discuss the Governor’s proposed pay increases. This conference committee included both the House and Senate. In this conference committee we discussed the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The Senate version called for a delay in the Governors increase till July. The House version had that same language but on July 2nd 2015 it returned the power of giving raises to commissioners back to the legislature. While I believe the power should have never left the legislature I do not believe that we should allow Governor Dayton to give commissioners upwards of 20, 30 and even 40% raises. We should be putting that money into our aging roads and bridges.
Also I had the opportunity to present S.F. 397 the “Blue Alert” bill on Wednesday. This bill would create a new system similar to the Amber alert system. Except in this case, folks in nearby areas will be notified if a law enforcement officer has been either extremely hurt or killed and a suspect is on the loose. Suspects who are willing to do that to a law enforcement official are extremely dangerous and need to be apprehended as soon as possible. This law would lend 5 million more eyes to law enforcement and add no additional cost to the state. The bill passed through the State and Local Government Committee and will be heard next in the Finance Committee.
Thank you for taking the time to read my weekly update it remains an honor to represent you in St. Paul. As always, feel free to contact me at my office at any time with your legislative concerns at 651-297-8063 or at Sen.Bill.Ingebrigtsen@senate.mn.