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School District 197 Superintendent Blog
Welcome to my blog! The purpose of the blog is to provide an avenue for communication with parents and community members. I will be sharing our progress in implementing the District Strategic Framework. Periodically I will also post photos and share news of special events that I attend in our schools.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Visit to the State Capitol

Dear Friends and Families of District 197,

In February the Minnesota State Legislature began its 2014 session.  Dubbed the "un-session" by Governor Dayton, we may see the elimination of old and outdated laws on the books.  How this might affect school districts remains to be seen, however.  In the era of accountability, regulation has increased in the last two decades at both the state and federal level.

A strong public education is the foundation of a successful democracy as well as the gateway to ensuring a thriving and dynamic state economy.  In our state, roughly 40 percent of the state budget goes toward our education system. This is no small investment in our children!  District 197 strives to put those resources to good use and to be wise and responsible stewards.  We also strive to influence public policy in a way that enhances our ability to be successful in ensuring all students achieve at high levels and graduate career and college ready.

To that end, this year our school board chose to identify areas of legislative interest and engage more with area legislators.  Topics of interest identified by the school board include:
  1. Funding:  
    1. Increase funding for early learning programs such as preschool, Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) and School Readiness.
    2. Reinstate funding for English Language Learners from five years back to seven years.
    3. Enable more school districts to qualify for Alternative Facilities Funding, which is limited to a handful of districts in the state and is used for maintaining aging facilities.
  2. Career and College Readiness:  Expand opportunities for students to earn post-secondary credit in high school.
  3. Ensure the proposed Safe and Supportive Schools legislation (anti-bullying) focuses on protecting students while refraining from adding burdensome and costly reporting requirements.
On February 13 the board hosted a legislative round table discussion and invited our six state representatives and senators.  Attending were Senator Jim Carlson, and Representatives Rick Hansen, Sandra Masin, and Laurie Halverson.  The dialogue was substantive, and the board and I appreciated the opportunity to share our thoughts with our legislators as well as hear their perspective on various topics.  We also appreciated the questions they posed in an effort to seek our input.  

We are fortunate to be in close proximity to the state capitol.  On March 4, some school board members along with administrators and a district parent visited the capitol and are pictured below.

While there we were able to meet with several legislators and attend conference committee hearings.  Over and over we heard what a difference it makes when the public engages with their legislators.  We were glad to hear this and feel that our time was well spent.

We hope that you will also keep an eye on legislative proceedings and that where ever possible, you will consider supporting legislation that benefits public education.  Not only do students benefit, the entire state of Minnesota is made stronger when we have an educated and informed citizenry.  Please make sure your voice is heard!

Sincerely,

Nancy Allen-Mastro
Superintendent