The 2021 legislative priorities for the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District are focused on education funding, local control and taxpayer fairness.

The School Board approved the three priorities for the 2021 legislative session at Monday’s meeting. The latest session began Tuesday, Jan. 5.

The approved priorities are:

• Provide stable, predictable and equitable education funding.

• Provide greater flexibility and location decision making authority

• Provide taxpayer and stakeholder fairness through initiatives that increase equalization aid, support educators and boost access to school-based pre-kindergarten programs for underserved students.

The priorities were proposed by the district’s Legislative Advisory Council, a non-partisan group made up of residents, high school students, district staff and School Board members.

During a typical year, the Legislative Advisory Council would hold a joint meeting with members of the district’s Budget Advisory Council to identify priorities for the upcoming sessions. However, that meeting did not happen because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Therefore as a group our LAC reviewed the previous year’s priorities and discussed updates. Using input from our members we drafted proposed priorities,” said Emily Buss, district spokeswoman.

Education funding

According to the presentation, the district is asking lawmakers to increase general education funding by at least 2 percent per year and allow school districts to use the “greater of their 2019 or 2020 pupil counts for calculating and compensatory funding.”

“Basic funding from Minnesota schools has continued to lag inflation and the gap in special education costs over funding will top $698 million statewide in 2021,” said Julia Prewitt, a student representative on the Legislative Advisory Council and Eastview High School senior.

The council is asking lawmakers to phase in recommendations of the School Finance Working Group to stabilize education and ensure taxpayer equity.

Local control

The district is seeking elimination of a requirement for school districts to partner on alternative learning center programs and it opposes other “unnecessary and unfunded mandates.”

The district would also like the innovation zone law to permit districts to try new instructional models and increase collaboration, according to the presentation.

Taxpayer fairness

Prewitt said equitable financial and educational practices ensure all District 196 taxpayers are treated fairly regardless of race, socioeconomic status or where they live.

The district is asking legislators to increase equalization of referendum, local optional and debt services levies.

“State equalization aid helps to balance the impact of school taxes on homeowners in school districts with less commercial or industrial property wealth, like District 196. However, equalization aid has not kept pace with the growth in property values over time and no longer provides the intended level of equalization or taxpayer fairness to provide great fairness for stakeholders,” Prewitt said.

The school district would also like to see increased access to school-based pre-kindergarten programs for underserved student populations. Multiple pathways to teacher licensure should be maintained and incentives to attract and retain teachers of color should be created, the district said.

Patty Dexter can be reached at patty.dexter@apgecm.com.

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