Legislative Updates

How (and how not) To Solve The Shortage of School Bus Drivers

 

school busThe 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.

Significant turnover

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.

mae flowersThe 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.

 

 

 

 

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Support the Free Breakfast Bill

We should work to reduce the achievement gap and create the “World’s Best Workforce” by making sure that all kids should start the school day on the right foot. Let your Legislator know how you feel: Sign Our Petition

Watch You Tube Video – Ready to Learn in Minnesota

 

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No Student Hungry-Sign the Petition

As cafeteria workers, paraprofessionals, custodial workers, bus drivers and clerical workers in schools, we see kids every day who come to school hungry. When kids don’t have breakfast, they can’t concentrate, they discipline problems, and their academic performance suffers.

This is a problem for Minnesota’s students. More than half of our students eat their first meal of the day at lunch.

Send this message to your Legislator:  Sign the petition here

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Weekly Update – February 13, 2015

Upcoming Hearings

Tuesday, Feb. 17th   8:30 AM Room 112 Capitol
SF490 Dahle School Debt Service Equalization  Increase
SF489 Dahle School Enhanced Debt Service  Equalization

Thursday, Feb 19,  8:30 AM Room 112 Capitol
SF811 Wiger Governor’s Education Budget

Thursday Feb 26th—  8:30 AM Room 112 Capitol
SF163 Hoffman School Basic Revenue Formula   Increase
SF558 Halvorson  School Compensatory Revenue
SF564 Hoffman School Lunch Aid Increase
SF541 Clausen School Per Pupil Formula  Increase & Indexing

SUSTAINED INVESTMENT IN EDUCATION

FORMULA ALLOWANCE INCREASE
H350 & S153  Sponsor: Rep Uglem and Sen Hoffman
All schools need stable and reliable funding, yet school funding has not kept pace with inflation for decades.  Both bills keep up with inflation and allow schools to make additional investments to improve student achievements.  S541 creates a more predictable and sustainable form of funding that adjusts automatically to inflation over time.
Proposes a 5% increase to the basic revenue formula allowance in 2016 ($6,131) and later.
Status: Introduced 1/26 in House & 1/20 in Senate Awaiting action in Education Finance & E12 Divisions
CLICK TO READ BILL<https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?number=HF350&version=0&session_year=2015&session_number=0>
Status: Hearing in E-12 Division on February 26th

H712 & SEN 541    Sponsor: Rep Davnie and Sen Clausen
Proposes a 4% increase to the basic revenue formula allowance in both 2016 ($6,064) and 2017 ($6,307).  In 2018 and later, the formula allowance increase would automatically increase by the Consumer Price Index- inflation- plus 1%.

CLICK TO READ BILL<https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?version=latest&session=ls89&number=SF0541&session_year=2015&session_number=0>
Status: Hearing in the E-12 division on February 26th

GOVERNOR’S EDUCATION BUDGET
H844 & S811 Sponsors: Rep Loon and Sen Wiger

This bill tackles everything the Governor proposed in his budget– funding for prekindergarten, adult education, free breakfast program, eliminating the Head Start waiting list, Reading Corps, expanding the English Learner program from 6 to 7 years, Regional Center of Excellence, Success for the Future, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)

CLICK TO READ BILL<https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?session=ls89&number=HF844&session_number=0&session_year=2015&version=list>
Status: Senate Hearing on Feb 19th in E-12 Division

DFL EDUCATION FUNDING BILL
H739 & S788  Sponsor: r: REP Davnie and Sen Torres Ray

Universal Pre-K Funding Phase in & Special Education Funding bill.

CLICK TO READ BILL<https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?session=ls89&number=HF739&session_number=0&session_year=2015&version=list>

FOUR DAY SCHOOL WEEK
H197 &S162 Simplification        sponsor: Rep Miller
S188 Reauthorization                sponsor: Sen Koenen

These bills reauthorize the 4- day week schedule, and will make it easier for additional districts to move to that model.  Four day weeks have proven not to work and are detrimental to student achievement.  Last year, seven of the eleven districts that moved to the four day week schedule went back to five days.

Because of divestment in education and inequity in funding, Districts are cutting programs and hours in class – instead we should fully fund education and increase equity in non- metro districts so all students can have access to a quality education.

CLICK TO READ BILL<https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?version=latest&session=ls89&number=SF0162&session_year=2015&session_number=0>

EQUITY IN EDUCATION
Facilities Funding
S76 & H860  School Facilities Revenue   Sponsor: Sen. Dahle  & Rep Marquart
S75 & h857 Capital Projects Referendum Equalization   Sponsor: Sen. Dahle & Rep Marquart

Over the last 20 years, the disparity between metro and non- metro schools has widened- particularly when it comes to funding for facilities and maintenance of buildings.   Currently, the largest 25 districts have the “alternative facilities program” – which is the ability maintain facilities without putting a levy or referendum on the ballot.
These bills create an adequate, equitable, sustainable funding stream for all districts, for all schools for all kids by doing two things:
1. Give all school districts access to “alternative facilities funding” so school buildings and grounds can be responsibly and efficiently maintained.
2.  Make school facilities levies and bonds more affordable in low-wealth districts by increasing equalization. This ensures tax fairness by making levies affordable in low property wealth districts.  For districts whose tax base is lower than the average, the state will contribute a higher share of the per- pupil funding.

This investment in infrastructure will make sure that all students – no matter where they live – are in quality, safe, learning environments; and districts could focus investment in education, programing, and support staff needs.

These bills close the funding inequity for long term maintenance of schools in non- metro districts.  We can’t segregate our funding based on zip codes.  All students deserve quality facilities.
Status:  Amended and Laid over in E-12 Division
CLICK TO READ BILL<https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?version=latest&session=ls89&number=SF0076&session_year=2015&session_number=0>

EQUITY REVENUE
H175 & S96  Equity Revenue for Exurban District     Sen Kiffenmeyer and Rep Lucero

The disparity in educational opportunities is especially striking in the districts surrounding the borders of the seven- county metro area.  Many districts have thousands of students residing in metro counties, are paying vendors, staff, at the same rates as the metro districts, but receive no metro equity revenue from the state.  Teachers and support staff should not have lower pay and fewer benefits because of their zip code.

These bills address this inequitable funding model by allowing any district in the 11 county metro to receive metro equity revenue-a 25% boost in per- pupil funding.  The districts eligible for metro equity revenue would increase from 48 to 75- including twenty schools with Local 284 contracts:

51- FOLEY
138- NORTH BRANCH
314- BRAHAM
466-  DASSEL-COKATO
726- BECKER
727- BIG LAKE
728- ELK RIVER
742- ST. CLOUD
877- BUFFALO
881- MAPLE LAKE
882- MONTICELLO
883- ROCKFORD
885- ST. MICHAEL-ALBERTVILLE
879- DELANO
911- CAMBRIDGE-ISANTI
912- MILACA
2144- CHISAGO LAKES
2397- LESUEUR-HENDERSON
2687- HOWARD  LAKE
2859- GLENCOE-SILVER LAKE

Status: H175 & S96 Awaiting Action in Education Finance & E12 Divisions- on the Senate agenda Feb 3rd

CLICK TO READ BILL<https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?version=latest&session=ls89&number=SF0096&session_year=2015&session_number=0>

BONDED DEBT AUTHORIZATIONS
H596 SPONSOR: Drazkowski

Excludes farmland from being taxed for bond issues or capital improvements (net tax capacity). Farmers would be taxed on their house, garage and one acre, not on the agricultural property.  This is how farmers are taxed for school district operating levies, the money that is used for general operating expenses.
CLICK TO READ BILL<http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/bills/billnum.asp?billnumber=596>

UNIVERSAL PRE-K
H46 & S6    Sponsor: Rep Murphy  & Senator Hoffman

Provides voluntary public pre-kindergarten for all four year old children across the state.  Aims to close the achievement gap, increase school readiness, create seamless transitions to all day-k, and engage better more meaningful engagement with families.
CLICK TO READ BILL<https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/bill.php?b=Senate&f=SF0006&ssn=0&y=2015>

FREE BREAKFAST PROGRAM FOR ALL ELEMENTARY STUDENTS
S344  Sponsor: Johnson

Expands the free breakfast for kindergarten to all elementary students by reimbursing $1.30 for each fully paid breakfast served to students.
Status:  Hearing on Tuesday, Feb 10th  Room 112 Capitol  8:30am
CLICK TO READ BILL<https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?version=latest&session=ls89&number=SF0344&session_year=2015&session_number=0>

ANTI- UNION LEGISLATION
PUBLIC EMPLOYEE UNION ATTACKS
H24 Public Employee Political Leave Prohibited    Sponsor: Rep Quam

Would restrict public employees from work-release/time off to engage in political activities
CLICK HERE TO READ BILL<http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/bills/billnum.asp?billnumber=24>

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Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

What is FMLA? The Family and Medical Leave Act took effect in 1993 to help balance workplace demands with the medical needs of employees and their families. You’re entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period for your own serious health condition, or to care for an immediate family member who has a serious health condition. You may also use the FMLA for what the Department of Labor website refers to as “birth and bonding,” an extended parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child, and for bonding with a new foster child.  (Immediate family members are parents, spouses and children)

Employee’s Eligible: Eligible employees must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months prior to requesting the leave. The employer must have at least 50 employees. And the employee must also have worked at least 1,250 hours in those 12 months.

Paid Leave: Your employer may require that you use paid leave first. Also check with HR about whether or not your employer will require that you use up your paid leave before using leave under the FMLA. Even if your employer doesn’t require it, you may still elect to first use accrued time for the obvious financial benefits.*Note – MN Parenting Leave Act does NOT allow employers to require use of paid sick leave.

Your employer may require proof of the serious health condition. This can be a touchy issue when it comes to your own health and that of your family. Your boss is entitled to ask for it, and if he/she does, you must obtain certification from a health care provider.
A job is guaranteed to you, but not necessarily the same job you had before. Ideally, your employer will be able to restore you to the same job you had before. According to the Department of Labor website, “an employee must be restored to the employee’s original job, or to an equivalent job with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment.”

You may request additional time to care for a member of the military. Under the FMLA, you may take up to 26 weeks of leave in a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious health condition, provided that you’re the service member’s spouse, child, parent or the nearest blood relative who has been granted legal custody of the injured service member. The same stipulations for employee and employer eligibility apply, and covered service member means someone in the regular or reserved Armed Forces who was on active duty or was called to active duty.

*NOTE: Employers must continue employer contributions to health insurance benefits during a qualifying FMLA leave. Employees on an unpaid FMLA leave must make arrangements for any employee contribution owed.  All other benefits are as defined in your collective bargaining agreement or employer policies.

For more information go to:www.dol.gov/WHD
Or visit:  www.dol.gov/wfd/fmla/employeeguide.pdf‎

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