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How will the state government shutdown affect schools?

Even though much of Minnesota's state government shut down July 1, a judge has ruled that the state must continue to fund K-12 schools under the state constitution.

However, the Minnesota Department of Education is all but closed, with only six positions left to carry on its work. That means, among other things, teacher licenses can’t be renewed until a state budget is passed and the shutdown ends. 

Ramsey County District Judge Kathleen Gearin said in her June 29 ruling that “critical core functions” of state government, including the funding of public schools under Article XIII of the state constitution, must go on during a shutdown.

Gearin’s list of core services is somewhat broader than that proposed by Gov. Mark Dayton, but otherwise follows the governor’s recommendation to limit shutdown expenditures to those necessary to preserve life and safety, maintain core state functions or fulfill obligations to the federal government.

Gearin appointed retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Kathleen Blatz as a special master to hear and make recommendations on issues related to the shutdown. Information on the special master hearings, which begin July 1, can be found here.

This is how the shutdown will play out in several areas related to education:

State aid. The Minnesota Department of Education says districts, charter schools and cooperatives will get about 80 percent of their state aid during the shutdown, in the form of general education aid, debt service equalization aid and property tax credits. However, federal aid and other categories of state aid will not be paid unless a court determines it is critical to do so.

The department has posted a spreadsheet of estimated payments to districts here and here.

Special education payments. It has now been settled by the Dayton administration and the courts that special education funding will continue  during the shutdown.

School funding shift. Without legislation to continue it, the school funding shift expires July 1, giving school districts a larger share of their revenue in the current fiscal year – at least temporarily. Since both Republicans and Democrats are counting on the shift to plug more than $1 billion of the state’s deficit, it will certainly be extended once the parties agree on a new budget.

Department of Education services. License renewal, testing-related activities and processing of grants and Q Comp applications are just a few examples of the department functions that are suspended. The department will maintain activities related to monitoring the maltreatment of minors. A “rolling” schedule means it will be difficult to reach MDE staff.

Pensions. The Teachers Retirement Association is open for business. However, TRA said a disruption in service could occur in other government services it relies upon. The association said it is making contingency plans to ensure benefits are paid as scheduled.

State colleges and universities. The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and the University of Minnesota will remain open.

PEIP health insurance. The Public Employee Insurance Program will continue to operate during the shutdown.

Education Minnesota is an affiliate of the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and AFL-CIO.

Education Minnesota
41 Sherburne Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55103

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