Superintendent Lance Bagstad briefed the Park Rapids School Board on Monday about the status of school funding in the state legislature.
He noted that between Gov. Tim Walz (DFL), the state House with its DFL majority and the state Senate with its Republican majority, there are three different sets of proposals, with the governor’s and House funding proposals tending to run higher than those of the Senate.
Bagstad hinted that adding all three proposals together and dividing by three may be the best way to anticipate the final result.
Going into details, Bagstad noted that:
Total proposed funding for education ranges from over $780 million (Walz) or $772 million (House) down to $152 million (Senate).
Proposals to increase the general education funding formula include 1 percent this year and 2.5 percent next year for a total of $301 million (Walz), 2 percent both years plus Consumer Price Index adjustments for almost $400 million (House) and no increase (Senate).
Proposals to reimburse schools for enrollment losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic include $2.5 million for the current fiscal year and $22.5 million next year (Walz), a House bill for $29 million next year, and a Senate proposal for $60 million in classroom pandemic aid for the following year.
Proposed funding for the special education cross subsidy include $72.7 million (Walz), $70 million (House) and $0 (Senate).
Funding proposals for teacher mentorship, which Bagstad said has been helpful for new teachers, include $10 million (Walz), $4.5 million (House) and $2.5 million (Senate).
Business Manager Kent Fritze echoed Bagstad’s views about predicting the outcome of the state’s school funding debate.
Fritze added that the district will see a 3 percent reduction in its health insurance premiums for next year, and that the bidding process is starting for milk and pizzas for next year. He said the school district is now part of the Northwest Buying Group, which will handle bread bids, pooling the buying power of multiple school districts. Bids will be awarded in June.
The principals discussed spring parent-teacher conferences, standardized testing – including eighth grade math scores that will be used to place next year’s freshmen in the appropriate math classes – preparations for graduation already underway with less than six weeks left in the school year, and plans for Kinder Camp in August.
Elementary Principal Mike LeMier added that Century School has been busy spending down the last of its money from the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grant in creative ways, such as sending board books home with children who have a newborn in the family so the kids can read to their younger siblings.
“We’ve also been approved to use books to celebrate milestones in kids’ lives, like birthdays,” he said, “and we’re also spending money to buy home language books and dual language books, focusing mostly on Spanish and Ojibwe.”
Community Education Director Jill Dickinson said her program’s summer brochure is being printed and will reach residents’ mailboxes by May 5.
Dickinson said 82 middle school students have registered for the summer Century Adventures program; approximately 40 students have been registered for next fall’s 4-year-old pre-K class; and the 3-year-old classroom is full with a waiting list.