Integration revenue task force approves plan

On Tuesday the integration revenue task force approved a plan they will submit to the Minnesota legislature for how $110 million of integration revenue should be repurposed. The task force’s mandate called for a repurposing of revenue so that it will be used to pursue specific goals aimed at closing the achievement gap – with or without integration programs. Integration remains a central piece of the group’s recommendations.

Related article — Integration: What is it good for?

The task force’s plan would create an Achievement and Integration for Minnesota (AIM) program. The program would be funded by what is currently known as integration revenue. The difference: only programs that fall under a list of clearly defined categories would receive revenue. Districts would submit plans with measurable goals to the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE.) The goals would include improved test scores and reduced differences in demographics between schools and between districts. Approved programs would undergo an annual review by the MDE, to determine whether or not they are meeting their goals. If not, funding would be cut.

The task force was created after integration revenue narrowly missed being chopped during this summer’s budget negotiations. A 2005 legislative audit said the revenue program lacked a clear purpose, received too little oversight from MDE and used a flawed funding formula.

Types of programs eligible for the funding under the task force's plan would include:

  • Programs that create innovative and integrated learning environments. That means magnet schools and all day kindergarten or preschool programs for low-income families. Also under this category – funding for the applications, parent notices, transportation and staff necessary to run school choice systems that give families options beyond neighborhood schools. 
  • Family engagement programs. These could include training parents in how the school system works, hiring culturally specific family liaisons and recruiting members of underrepresented communities for school and district leadership positions.
  • Professional development. Programs would focus on increasing achievement in low-income students and students of color. Possibilities include teacher training in literacy instruction, culturally responsive teaching, advanced level course instruction, etc.
  • Programs that promote access to opportunities for under-served students. Programs would include College in the Schools, ACT and SAT classes, academic camps, gifted and talented programs, AVID and other programs that promote access to jobs, rigorous courses and college.
  • Programs to increase the diversity of teachers and administrators. These could include recruitment and retention programs. Underrepresented community members would get support — both financial and otherwise — in earning a teaching license and maintaining a teaching position. They would commit to two years in a Minnesota public school.

The 2005 audit criticized the past funding formula for distributing integration revenue unevenly. For example, in the past, Stillwater has received significantly more integration funding per non-white student than Brooklyn Center, which has a much higher proportion of students of color.

Task Force co-chair Scott Thomas said the group felt it was beyond their mandate to provide a new funding formula, but they did provide some guidelines, including recommending leveling the funding differences between demographically similar districts. They also recommended setting aside .02 percent of the funding for MDE oversight. Currently there is no set-aside, and the department provides very limited oversight and support to integration programs.

The plan recommended that lawmakers consider the merits of creating one metro integration district, combining the East Metro Integration District, West Metro Education Program and Northwest Suburban Integration School District.

Although two of the 12 task force members voted against the recommendations, including conservative columnist Katherine Kersten and attorney Peter Swanson, task force chair Scott Thomas stressed the bipartisan nature of the plan. Education commissioner Brenda Cassellius appointed six of the task force members and the state House and Senate each appointed three. “The fact that this was a bipartisan recommendation is significant,” he said. “This is really a unique opportunity for [the legislature].”

Commissioner Cassellius will submit the recommendations to the legislature February 15. The legislature is not required to adopt the task force’s plan.

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Alleen Brown's picture
Alleen Brown

Alleen Brown (alleenbrown [at] tcdailyplanet [dot] net or Twitter @AlleenBrown) is a freelance writer from Minneapolis.