What is happening at the Capitol
The Senate education finance omnibus bill was released on Monday. I reviewed the House's education finance omnibus last week. The House education finance omnibus is on the floor today. I have a
side by side comparison
of the Governor, House and Senate's bills, right now it contains just the budget proposals, I will get to the policy next week.
You can find much
more information on the omnibus bills, including the district revenue runs
, on the SEE website.
The Senate education omnibus is a pretty clean bill and a good start. With the low budget target of $300 million, like the House but to a much smaller degree, it make a few cuts to existing programs to fund the author's other priorities. Both the House and Senate are closing down the Crosswinds school, which is part of the Perpich Center for the Arts, and have $10 million in the education omnibus bills from the sale of the school building. Contingency plans, in case the building does not sell in a timely manner, were created as they can't spend money that isn't there.
Following are some of the highlights in the Senate education omnibus bill.
- 1.5% increases to the basic formula for each of the next two years.
- $10 million to partially offset the 2% increase to school districts for the Teacher Retirement Association (TRA) pension plan, contingent on the sale of Crosswinds.
- $2 million increase for early learning scholarships and links the program to basic formula increases.
- Cuts $2.4 million in grants at two urban community schools and moves the funding for out state Minnesota community schools.
- Provides increases or startup funding for several teacher recruiting and retention programs with a focus on increasing racial diversity in the teacher workforce.
- New innovation zone grants that eliminate nine mandates, which will give school districts more flexibility.
- Adds a dyslexia specialist at the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). Requires schools to develop a personal learning plan for student not proficient on the 3rd grade reading MCA test. Although a specific curriculum is not required, the language is very prescriptive, calling out core reading instruction in a existing but expensive curriculum that is effective at providing literacy interventions for all students, including those with dyslexia. No funding for school districts was included.
- Eliminates the requirement that teachers have to take additional credits to hold an Academic and Behavioral Strategist (ABS) license for special education.
- Creates a new educator licensing board and implements a new tiered licensure system.
Moving onto the House, the effects of eliminating voluntary preK caused a serious loss in per pupil funding for those district that were awarded the preK funding. The Chair decided to compensate these districts with an additional $41 million for School Readiness preschool programs. This funding is only available for the next two years. It does not generate categorical funding like special education, English language and compensatory as voluntary preK funding did. To pay for it, the basic formula increases were reduced to 1.25% for each of the next two years. In addition, $13 million was added to the House education target. Most of this funding would go to districts that have especially large deficits in their transportation funding.