Both HF833 (the Harambee bill) and HF592 (the Perpich-Crosswinds bill) were heard in the House Education Finance Committee this morning. After being introduced by Rep. Fischer, testimony for Harambee included Superintendent John Thein, and parents Will Bryan and Mike Boguszewski. The Harambee bill, which primarily seeks support for the transportation needs Roseville inherits with the school, saw only minimal questioning and was passed unanimously on to the House Capital Investment Committee.
The Perpich-Crosswinds bill encountered significantly choppier water, but emerged successful as well. Rep. Ryan Winkler introduced the bill and a couple of amendments. Sue Mackert presented Perpich’s case for the school, Mary Cecconi filled in some history and institutional memory from her time on the Stillwater school board, Bryan Bass described the school’s academics and achievements. The committee questioned these speakers, primarily Sue Mackert, for an extended period. Much of the concern was about the finances of the bill. Some of the questioning was also aimed at understanding what Perpich gains and possibly loses in taking on Crosswinds. A number of committee members seemed to be trying to understand exactly why this issue was before the legislature, what had gone wrong at EMID to land this on their plate? Rep. Mariani reminded members that the legislature’s own actions sun-setting integration aid laid some of the responsibility at their own feet.
After questioning, a number of EMID Families representatives testified for Crosswinds: parents Eric Celeste, Tami Bayne-Kuczmarski, and Dan Larson all testified briefly, and Sam Larson and Nate Celeste represented Crosswinds students. I say briefly because we were each given no more than two minutes! The family testimony helped convey the emotional impact of this decision to legislators. A few tears were shed.
One Woodbury Elementary parent, Joe Ryan, also testified briefly in favor of Perpich.
Then the opponents to Perpich took the mic. Superintendent Keith Jacobus of South Washington County (ISD833) spoke against the bill saying that it would hurt his district financially to continue to send students to Crosswinds. Most disappointing, though, was the final testimony of the morning: EMID and White Bear Lake board member Lori Swanson testified against Perpich. That the only representative of the EMID board who addressed the legislature was opposing the very action the board took in January was yet another demonstration of the dysfunction of the EMID board.
Nevertheless, Crosswinds and Perpich prevailed. On a voice vote with only a single “nay,” the committee passed the Perpich-Crosswinds bill along to the Government Operations Committee. We expect that the Government Operations Committee could hold a hearing on HF592 as soon as this week. We will keep you informed.
In addition to the spoken testimony offered at the hearing, which as I said was extremely limited, the members of the committee all received packets of written testimony. A thin packet of seven letters in opposition all came from Woodbury. On the other hand, the committee received 33 letters of substance and support from across our districts, from parents and teachers and community members. Some of this testimony can be found on our website. Even just in weight, the overwhelming support was clear. Anyone who took the time to even glance at the substance of the letters would be even more impressed. Thank you to everyone who took the time to write to the committee.