Legislative Updates

2019 Political Report

Every child, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, or where they live, deserves to pursue their dreams. But certain politicians and their greedy lobbyists are putting our children’s future at risk. They rig the rules to enrich themselves, while they distract us by generating fear based on race, background, and religion. Together, we have the power to pick leaders who believe in all of our children. When we come together across our different communities, we can make Minnesota a state we’re proud to leave our kids, brimming with the new ideas that come from so many different people working together, to benefit everyone.

By working with Governor Walz and the DFL controlled House we won inflationary investments in education, enough new special education funding to make up for the projected increase in costs and maintained 4,000 PreK spots last Spring.

SEIU also helped to pass the strongest protections against wage theft in the country. More than 39,000 Minnesotans report having wages stolen each year by their employers, and that’s just the people who report wage theft. We know that wage theft is an issue for our members. If you are experiencing wage theft on your job you should alert your CO right away.

This Fall we have the opportunity to elect pro-public education, pro-worker school board members in districts across the State. The presidential election will also be heating up this fall. If you are interested in building the political power of the union contact our Political Director Chris Stinson at ChrisS@local284.com.

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SEIU Local 284 Legislative Agenda for 2019

The Minnesota State Capitol building in winter, St. Paul, Minnesota.

The Minnesota State Capitol building in winter, St. Paul, Minnesota. By Tony Webster. Is licensed under CC by 2.0.

After an exciting election season where SEIU Local 284 members helped elect a wave of pro-public education elected officials (including Gov. Tim Walz), we are now heading into the new legislative session where we will continue our work fighting for strong public schools. Below you will find some of the issues that we will be advocating for at the Capitol when session begins on January 8th.

Want to get involved to help win on the issues that matter to school employees, students and our communities? Email SEIU Local 284 Political Director Chris Stinson at ChrisS@local284.com to find out how. 

MINNESOTA MIRACLE 2.0

SEIU Local 284 is part of a coalition fighting for a new Minnesota Miracle in Education that would ensure that students have all they need to be successful from preK through college or career regardless of their race, background, or zip code. Now is the time to prioritize investing in public education by fully funding:

  • Equitable Funding. The Minnesota Miracle of 1971 survived relatively unchanged until 2002 when the funding formula was changed. Between 2002 and 2011 state funding for education didn’t keep up with the rate of inflation and school districts began to rely on voter approved property tax levies for their general operating budgets. The inequity between property tax rich and property tax poor districts began to increase again. We need to return to an equitable funding formula so students in low property tax wealth communities have the same educational opportunities as students in affluent zip codes.
  • Universal, Public PreK. Every Minnesota child deserves a safe place where they will be able to play and learn foundational skills to be ready for kindergarten. Children participating in early learning programs had significantly fewer needs related to special education, welfare, or corrections (imprisonment) than peers who didn’t participate in those programs.
  • Full-Service Community Schools. Historic and institutional bias in employment, housing, education, and criminal justice have traumatized generations of communities of color and indigenous communities, resulting in student populations with disproportionately high needs in those communities and schools that struggle to meet those needs. The Full-Service Community School model is the most efficient model to meet the student body’s needs and improve student achievement as it co-locates learning with other critical social services. Key to this model is that the definition of critical needs and the service providers themselves come from the community the students live in. Because service providers are also community members, they have an important stake in finding ways to serve their neighbors and improve their neighborhood.
  • Free Public College. It is now necessary to obtain a post-secondary degree in order to enter, and remain, in the middle class but student loan debt burdens the students who most depend on a college degree for upward socioeconomic mobility and prevents them from fully participating in the economy. Investing in the ability of students to attend college, regardless of economic status, is one of the most important things government can do to boost our economy in the short term and make our economy and our society stronger in the long term.

 

VOUCHERS (TAX CONFORMITY)

SEIU Local 284 opposes the use of public money, including tax deductions and credits, for private school tuition. Public schools accept all students, including all religions, sexual orientations, gender identities, children of color, children with special needs or learning disabilities. At a time when we need to address racial and geographic disparities in our schools, vouchers would starve our public schools. Federal tax law allows the use of 529 accounts to pay for private school tuition, a provision that we oppose expanding into the state tax code.

PRIVATIZATION

Privatization of food service, transportation, and custodial jobs result in higher staff turnover and less qualified staff because lower wages and fewer benefits make it harder to attract and retain a quality workforce. We need to retain the best staff to work with kids every day. With private companies focusing on profits instead of students, services are negatively impacted, affecting the safety of students. Low-wage jobs are bad for the community, forcing families to rely on public programs like food stamps, Medicaid, free lunch, and child care assistance to sustain their family.

STUDENT LUNCH DEBT

Hunger has a big negative impact on cognitive and social development and makes children far more susceptible to physical and mental illness. Yet hunger is a widespread problem nationally with just half of the students who are eligible for free breakfast receiving it. Many families fall just outside the income limits for the free meal program or fluctuate in and out of eligibility. Programs that give all students free meals eliminate the stigma children on free meals can experience and save schools and parents a big headache when it comes to paperwork.

UNEMPLOYMENT

Many school district employees are exempted by state law from Minnesota’s unemployment system. It is blatantly unfair that school districts employees are excluded from MN’s unemployment system while resort, golf course, amusement park employees, and private subcontractors doing the same work are eligible. At a minimum, all school employees should receive the same written notice that teachers get that they have a reasonable assurance of being employed after the summer break so that our members have the financial security that folks in other professions have. To be really fair, school districts should be required to participate in the unemployment system.

STUDENT LOAN DEBT

We supported the Student Loan Debt Tax Deduction so students can attend college, regardless of economic status without being held back by debt for the rest of their lives. The language currently in statute is only a tax deduction. We would support efforts to expand that into a Refundable Tax Credit.

STATE GRANT PROGRAM

The Minnesota State Grant Program has helped students build better futures for themselves and their families, by making two-year schools, four-year schools, and technical school training programs more affordable. We support an increase in the State Grant Program to ensure that it meets the needs of Minnesota’s students. We would also support extending the promise of higher education to Minnesota Dreamers, many of whom have lived in our state for most of their lives. Minnesota should invest $1.1 million to provide additional State Grant assistance to 568 Minnesota Dreamers to fill in for federal Pell Grants they would be eligible to receive, but for their legal status. The average eligible student would receive an average increase of $2,010 under this proposal to help pay tuition.

SPECIAL EDUCATION FUNDING

We know that school districts struggle to keep up with the mandated costs of educating students with special needs. We also know that appropriately supporting students with special needs is critical for their development and future success. Minnesota and the Federal Government don’t pay their fair share of the cost of special education resulting in that local school districts having to make up the difference. Everyone is asked to do more with less and that’s just not sustainable for any school employees, especially the special education paras.

STUDENT SUPPORT SERVICES

Minnesota has the worst ratio of counselors to students in the nation and we’re not much better at providing nurses, paras, and other support staff. We know that appropriately supporting students with special needs is critical for their development and future success. We need to support our students so they can focus on learning.

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End-of-session Legislative Summary

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:

  • Pre-Kindergarten ($25 million)
  • School support staff ($12 million)
  • Teachers of color and a pathway for school employees to become licensed teachers ($11 million)
  • Full-service community schools ($1 million)
  • College access and affordability ($2.5 million)
  • Student loan debt relief ($36 million)

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.

capitol-blng_400px_WideWe 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.

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Invest Our Surplus in Education

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Legislative Alert April 4, 2016

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

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Legislative Alert

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/

In Solidarity,
Carol Nieters
Executive Director
SEIU Local 284

P.S. Sign-up today for SEIU MN’s annual Lobby Day on Tues., Apr. 12!  Sign up on-line.

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Weekly Legislative Update

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!

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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.)

 

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Thank You Governor Dayton

Join us for a

Legislative Session Wrap up and Reception

June 29th   5:30-7pm

@ the Maple Grove Community Center

RSVP HERE

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Dear Legislature: Choose Educations Over Corporations-Article in St. Cloud Times

st cloud times Read the full Article here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Give It Back

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.

#GIVEITBACK VIDEO

Please share this video, and click here to ask your legislator to #GIVEITBACK

 

 

 

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