(St. Paul, MN) — Governor Walz is considering a shift away from referendums as a means for funding Minnesota schools. Walz is finalizing his first budget and wants to put more responsibility on the state to fund Minnesota’s schools. He hasn’t released the specifics of his plan but says it will include the groundwork for a movement away from bonding and operating referendums.
Good morning and welcome to a wintery Monday. It’s going to take more than some snow and cold to keep us from delivering your Digest.
1. A move to shift school funding. Gov. Tim Walz is aiming to overhaul the way Minnesota funds its schools, putting more responsibility on the state and making local referendums “either rare or extinct.” As he finalizes his first budget, the DFL governor said he’s focused on reversing what he sees as a disturbing trend: a leveling off in state support for education that’s putting more pressure on local funding, and widening gaps between wealthy and poor, metro and greater Minnesota schools. Walz declined to release the specifics of his plan. But he said his budget — due by Feb. 19 — will include several proposals that would “start to set the groundwork” for a shift away from the bonding and operating referendums that currently add up to more than $1.6 billion in school funding each year. (Star Tribune)
2. Minnesota’s new ed chief. It’s not hard to understand Mary Cathryn Ricker’s attraction to teaching. It’s in her blood. Her father and grandfather both taught school on Minnesota’s Iron Range. She can remember watching her father mentor and inspire students on community service trips. Becoming a third-generation teacher seemed like destiny. “Watching my dad interact with [students] and watching them interact with my dad, and this respectful rapport they had with each other,” said Ricker, “it showed me the world of opportunity that is in teaching and in meeting the needs of kids.” (MPR News)
3. Craig meets with constituents. Border security and immigration policy didn’t play a huge role in last fall’s election in Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District — but they were front and center on Saturday as Rep. Angie Craig faced her constituents in a public forum for the first time since she took office. Several hundred people gathered in Burnsville for Craig’s first town hall since being sworn in as a U.S. representative earlier in the month — one of 85 new members of Congress. (MPR News)
4. Constitutional changes under consideration. Several Minnesota lawmakers think the state constitution needs an update. The 2019 legislative session is not even a month old, but there’s already a handful of bills in the Minnesota House and Senate to amend the state’s founding document. Several of them deal with enshrining gender equality in the state’s legal framework. The rest would make marijuana legal, protect against unwarranted digital searches, cut the size of the Legislature and impose term limits on those elected to serve there. (Pioneer Press)
5. Can rapid transit win support where traditional bus lines haven’t? Nearly three years after the $27 million A Line made its debut, Metro Transit has big plans to expand its rapid bus fleet — a strategy seen as both economical and politically palatable. It’s also popular with riders at a time when local bus ridership is down in the Twin Cities and nationwide. A second rapid bus called the C Line, which will include Metro Transit’s first electric buses, is slated to begin passenger service later this year, serving north Minneapolis and the northern suburbs. And the Metropolitan Council will ask state lawmakers this session for funds to help build the $75 million D Line, which will largely replace the Route 5 local bus, the busiest transit thoroughfare in the state. The council estimates it will take $400 million to $500 million from various sources to build out a system of 11 rapid bus lines. In recent years, Republican lawmakers at the Capitol have looked askance at the regional planning body’s funding requests for transit, particularly light rail. But arterial rapid buses seem to be a mode that both parties support, at least for now. (Star Tribune)