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Integration revenue modifed

Published (4/10/2009)
By Kris Berggren
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Four years after the Office of the Legislative Auditor reported that the school district integration revenue program’s purpose remains unclear and its implementation and oversight are lacking, lawmakers are proposing changes.

Rep. Jerry Newton (DFL-Coon Rapids) and Rep. Robin Brown (DFL-Moscow Township) led a working group on integration revenue, which totals nearly $92.85 million to 113 eligible school districts this year. The categorical program, intended to reduce racial segregation, is 70 percent state funded and 30 percent from local levies.

Newton sponsors HF2051, which would specifically link integration revenue to closing the achievement gap and eliminate desegregation funding for districts with less than 15 percent “protected” students in certain categories.

Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) doesn’t think the changes go far enough. He said the entire spending category is based on a flawed premise.

“The thing that’s most insulting about the integration categorical is it presumes that every minority child is having problems,” Garofalo said. “So tying it to race, tying it to purely income classifications, I have a big objection with. We should be tying these things to who are the kids who are really behind and then targeting the assistance that’s necessary there.”

Assistant Education Commissioner Morgan Brown testified that the governor’s proposal is to cap integration revenue at current levels for districts already receiving it, and to freeze any new applications from eligible districts.

The bill was laid over April 2 by the House K-12 Education Finance Division for possible inclusion in its omnibus bill. It has no Senate companion.

The division also laid over a second bill, HF425, sponsored by Rep. Debra Hilstrom (DFL-Brooklyn Center), for possible omnibus inclusion.

It would put the Brooklyn Center, Richfield and Columbia Heights school districts, whose student demographics mirror those of Minneapolis and St. Paul, in a higher revenue category as are the urban districts and Duluth.

Sen. Linda Scheid (DFL-Brooklyn Park) sponsors a companion, SF466, which awaits action by the Senate E-12 Education Budget and Policy Division.

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