When the legislature convened in March SEIU Local 284 and our partners had a long list of investments that we wanted made to improve the quality of education in Minnesota from Cradle-to-Career. Because of our work together, the state legislative session that just adjourned passed investments in each of these areas:
Local 284 member activism continued to be focused on passing funding for our Cradle-to-Career initiatives since the MN SEIU Lobby Day a little over a month ago on April 12. A member petition was circulated in 23 school districts and several hundred members also signed the petition on our website, and in response to our e-mail leg alerts.
We had several phonebanks where we called members and patched them through to their state legislators’ offices to demand education funding. On one night alone we called over 400 members, talked with 67 of them and patched 28 through to their state representative.
Local 284 Executive Director Carol Nieters also worked closely with legislative leadership including Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk to make sure that our priorities stayed at the top of their priority list.
If you met with your legislators before the session, came to lobby day, testified in front of a committee, signed a petition, or made a call thank you!
Of course, the work is not done. Every day there’s another story of a school that is struggling to provide sufficient support to students who are struggling to succeed. We need to continue to work to reshape our education system into one that embraces our growing diversity and closes opportunity gaps but right now know that your work this year made this victory possible.
This week funding for pre-K is up in the State Senate.
On Wed., Apr. 6 the Senate Education Committee will be considering Governor Mark Dayton’s
proposal for pre-K. Please e-mail your state senate member and let them know that you support
full funding for voluntary, universal pre-K. Email Here
This week there is lot of action on education funding in the Minnesota House. On Tues., Mar. 29 the House Education Policy committee will be hearing the Teacher Shortage Act (HF 3132) which would encourage more teachers of color into the profession and help current pre-K educators, para-professionals, and other school district employees become licensed teachers. On Wed., Mar. 30 the House Higher Education committee will be hearing bills that would expand funding for the Student Loan Refinancing Program (HF 2924), and provide a Student Loan Tax Credit (HF 2965) to help Minnesotans pay off their higher education debt. Please e-mail your state house member and let them know that you support these bills.
The more SEIUers we have at Lobby Day the more effectively we can push for funding for education! For more info go to: http://seiumn.org/lobbyday/
SEIU Local 284
Legislative Update for Tues., May 17, 2016 (Prepared by Jim Niland and Chris Stinson)
2016 STATE LEGISLATIVE SESSION APPROACHES GRIDLOCK…
Our member activism at Lobby Day and elsewhere helped push the DFL Senate caucus to set good, high funding targets for pre-K and K-12, and higher ed funding, that can help fund our Cradle-to-Career initiatives. After the DFL Senate caucus came in with its target higher than DFL Governor Mark Dayton’s original supplemental budget proposal ($100 million instead of $77 million) Dayton responded favorably by raising his supplemental budget proposal by an additional $50 million to $127 million. For higher ed the DFL Senate Caucus target was $48 million and the Governor’ supp budget proposal was $77 million.
Unfortunately the House Republican caucus has been a roadblock to additional Cradle-to-Career funding. Their higher ed target is $0. They moved some pre-K and K-12 money around–making cuts here and a few increases there-but their net increase in pre-K and higher ed funding is $0.
The Senate and House named state legislators to one big budget conference committee that is supposed to hammer out a deal on the entire supplemental budget-education, transportation, taxes, human services, etc. The conferees from the Senate are Sens. Cohen, Wiger, Lourey, Saxhaug and Fischbach (all but Fischbach are DFLers.) The House conferees are Knoblach, Loon, Garafalo, Dean and McNamara (all Republicans.)
For the last couple weeks there has been no progress on a budget deal because the Republicans have refused to budge on their demand that a transportation funding deal be reached first. With time running out before the session’s constitutional deadline of May 23 this gridlock is increasing the chance every passing day that there will be no progress this session on Cradle-to-Career and education funding. This is particularly disappointing as there is actually bipartisan agreement on some items in our Cradle-to-Career initiative-like the teacher shortage/”pathway/pipeline” for paras and other support staff/teachers of color legislation, and a state income tax credit to help Minnesotans with their college tuition debt. But any progress on Cradle-to-Career is being thwarted and held hostage because of Republican intransigence on an overall budget deal.
…BUT MEMBER ACTIVISM IS PUSHING FOR A CRADLE-TO-CAREER ED FUNDING DEAL
After our April 12 Lobby Day, Local 284 member activism continues to focus on pushing the legislature to pass funding for our Cradle-to-Career initiatives. A petition for fair funding for all of MN’s school district-so the quality of a child’s education is not dependent on their zip code-is being circulated by member activists and CO/IO’s in 23 school districts that have the largest numbers of our members working for them. These petitions are being delivered to legislators. We are also following up by phoning every signer to ask them to call their state house members (as the state house is the roadblock to progress) to push for ed funding to help ramp up the pressure. This list of signers will continue to be mobilized as we head toward the vitally important November presidential election where all 201 seats in the state legislature will also be on the ballot.
This petition was also included in our last weekly leg alert e-mail. That leg alert had the biggest response of all the ones we sent out this session. Over a quarter of our members who got the leg alert opened the e-mail-and over 120 signed the petition. The petition is also front and center on our web homepage-and over 150 members have signed the petition there.
We have used the state council’s dialer to patch our members through to their state legislators-targeting house Republicans in what will likely be the tightest races this year. On one night alone we dialed over 400 members, talked with 67 of them and patched through 28 to their state rep.
Local 284 Executive Director Carol Nieters has continued to work with legislative leadership including Dayton’s Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk.
We will continue to push as hard we can to make progress on Cradle-to-Career this session!
SEIU Local 284 Weekly Legislative Update (Fri., Apr, 8, 2016)
HOUSE REPUBLICANS RELEASE BUDGET TARGETS-BAD NEWS FOR EDUCATION!:
The House Republican caucus released its budget targets this week:
$0 for pre-K
$0 net increase for K-12 education
$0 for higher ed
$0 for addressing racial disparities
SENATE DFLERS SET BUDGET TARGETS NEXT WEEK:
The Senate DFL caucus will set budget targets next week. We a pushing for as high a target as possible for Cradle-to-Career funding for pre-K, K-12, and higher education.
LOTS OF COMMITTEE HEARINGS ON OUR CRADLETO-CAREER BILLS:
L284 member and pre-K teacher Amanda Reineck did a fantastic job testifying in support of pre-K funding at the Senate Education committee. We expect significant pre-K funding to be included in the Senate ed finance bill.
Funding equity for school districts bills had a hearing in the DFL Senate. The Republican House has not heard these bills.
There were hearings in both the House and Senate for the Teacher Shortage Act (SF 2513 (Dahle)/HF 3132(Erickson))-which includes a “pipeline” of money and opportunity for paraprofessionals and other school district employees who want to become licensed teachers. (Our Governor Mark Dayton’s budget includes $12.5 million for this.)
Higher ed affordability bills had hearings in both houses (although the Republican House has put no money for higher ed in its budget targets.) Some bills take the approach of a tax credit to help relieve student debt, and others take the approach of increasing funding for the state grant program to students in school.
Funding for more guidance counselors and other school support staff (SF 1364(Kent)/HF 2045(Hausman)) was heard in the Senate but not in the House. This bill provides $18 million-no funding was specifically included in Governor Dayton’s budget but Dayton left $200 million unspent in his budget proposal than can be used for Cradle-to-Career initiatives like this.
Full Service Community Schools are funded by a bill heard in the Senate (but not in the House): SF 2813(Johnson)/HF 3046(Murphy). Their bill provides $5 million in funding (Governor Dayton’s budget proposal provides $2 million.)
From 2002 to 2013 the Minnesota legislators continually failed to adequately fund education. Instead, they balanced the budget on the back of our students. Local property owners had to make up the difference, creating greater inequities for students in non-metro districts with fewer properties and businesses.
With a $1.9 billion dollar surplus, now is the time to reinvest in our students. We can create a stable, fair source of funding for districts, reduce the achievement gap, and build the World’s Best Workforce.
Instead of these common-sense solutions, the House GOP has proposed a less than 1% increase in education (essentially cuts), and tax cuts to the tune of $2.2 billion. This means that for every $1 in new education funding, the House budget spends $15 in tax cuts.
With a $2 billion dollar surplus and a strong economy, let’s not go back to the dark days of neglecting education in order to cuts taxes for the rich.
Please share this video, and click here to ask your legislator to #GIVEITBACK
SEIU 2015: Winning for Students and School Staff.
The Minnesota Legislature is considering options to solve the shortage of bus drivers in our state. The bills that are on the table range from increasing the number of testers to allowing applicants to drive without a full background check.
Not only do these proposals not solve the problem, they could put our students at harm.
Being a school bus driver is more than shuttling children back and forth to school. As mediators, listeners and mentors, we make a difference in students’ lives. Our kids know us – and at the beginning of the school year after a long summer, they love seeing that they have the same school bus driver. It helps with stability in their lives.
Unfortunately, most of our students in Minnesota have to adjust to a new driver every year. The combination of irregular hours, low wages and the denial of unemployment insurance in the summer makes it hard for drivers to stay in the industry – even though they love the job.
In fact, there is such a significant turnover of school bus drivers that everyone from custodians to clerical staff to administrators are prepared to get behind the wheel when drivers are sick. Last fall, one school district even had to cancel school when the bus driver was out.
The problem should be addressed with improved job compensation and working conditions, starting with unemployment insurance.
Bus drivers and other school support staff – custodians, paraprofessionals, food service workers – are the only seasonal workers not eligible for unemployment insurance during the summer when there is no work.
Being excluded from unemployment benefits creates serious financial hardship. Our families are seriously affected as we juggle rent, food, utilities and other basic expenses during the difficult summer months. Many of us earn less than $15,000 annually.
Hard to find summer work
Being a single person asking for assistance is like standing on an intersection begging for dollars and change. We get looked down on and denied. Most companies don’t want to hire workers just for three months. If drivers can find summer work, its hourly part-time positions with very low wages.
Bus drivers are not paid during school holidays or for teachers’ days. We average about 175 days a year, and many drivers only have 5-6 hours a day. Since the hours are so irregular, it is hard to get another part-time job. That leaves drivers who care about their jobs and students at or near the poverty level – and struggling to pay rent and get by in the summer months.
To really solve our current problem, the Legislature should correct the inequity in our state’s current unemployment insurance system to ensure that school workers can receive the benefits we deserve. Allowing school support staff access to unemployment insurance during summer months, and adding more bus monitors to increase safety of both students and drivers, would help attract and retain drivers.
Mae Flowers is a school bus driver in Eden Prairie.