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New education bill has good, bad news for BEA

By Staff | Aug 14, 2011

Dale Brandsoy

Once again, Blue Earth Area school board members received some financial good news and bad news at their meeting last Monday night.

This time, it came in a report from Superintendent Dale Brandsoy dealing with the recent Omnibus K-12 Education bill in the Legislature.

“The state is going to use a 60/40 aid payment plan,” Brandsoy tells the board. “It is supposed to be a 90/10 split, but recently has been 70/30.”

This means the state will pay BEA 60 percent of what it owes the district this year, but delay 40 percent of the aid until the next fiscal year.

That’s part of the bad news. The good news comes in another way the state has slowed payments to schools.

“The Legislature repealed the state’s authority to delay payments to districts like they did to us last year,” Brandsoy says. “They did not make any payments to us from December through May.”

The superintendent says that if the state did a 60/40 split and was able to delay payments for five months, the district would be in serious trouble.

Another bit of good news was the increase in the state aid formula. The Legislature increased the amount of funding per student by $50 per year in both fiscal year 2012 and 2013.

The basic state aid per pupil will increase to $5,174 in 2012 and $5,224 in 2013.

“They made the increase to cover the interest costs incurred by districts to borrow funds to cover what the state will not pay them this year,” Brandsoy says. “But it is a good thing, since we thought they wouldn’t increase it at all.”

There was another piece of bad news, however.

The legislation states that students who graduate early during their senior year will no longer generate the state funding through the end of the year, as has been done in the past.

And, the state is giving seniors a big incentive to take that early graduation option.

If they graduate early, they will qualify for a scholarship of up to $7,500 from the state.

There are many other changes in the bill, not all tied to finances.

“They changed the way we can figure our school calendars,” Brandsoy says. “We can now calculate it in hours instead of days.”

Brandsoy says any district wishing to do something such as go to a four day week will still need to seek permission to do so.

In other business at the meeting, the board:

• Accepted bids for various items including bakery and dairy products, softener salt and snow removal.

They also accepted bids for vehicle fuel, both gas and diesel.

“We have had to budget an extra $30,000 this year just for the increase cost of diesel,” Brandsoy says.

Transportation Services coordinator Dan Brod agreed.

“The bids average $1 per gallon higher than last year,” he says. “A year ago diesel was $2.93 and gas was $2.66 a gallon.”

• Approved the various student handbooks, noting some changes.

At the high school, principal Jack Eustice says the changes involved adding the policies concerning prom, changing some language dealing with bullying, and a change in the cell phone rules.

“We added an option of paying a fine if we confiscate a phone,” Eustice says. “Before we had the parents come and get the phone, but many don’t want to do that. They would rather pay the fine.”