Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Presto! A Bill? Well, it's not a whole bill, but an agreement on the education funding portion of the mego-giganto-omnibus budget correction bill (HF 1812) has been reached. Senator LeRoy Stumpf and Representative Mindy Greiling, chairs of the Senate and House K-12 funding panels respectively and pictured at the right, led the working group that forged this quickly developed agreement.

An education budget agreement is usually like a meal prepared in a crockpot. It's slow-cooked and seasoned with a myriad of ingredients including a cup of boredom, a pinch of snippiness, and a heavy dash of wrangling over seemingly (but not truly) innocuous provisions. Not so in 2008. This is the microwave version--ready in minutes, if not so tasty.

Going into the session, both Houses of the Legislature promised the education community that there would be some level of supplemental assistance for school districts and they have made good at this point with the development of this bill. The bill's main funding components include:
  • A one-time appropriation to school districts of $51 per average daily membership (pupils, not pupil units). This accounts for approximately $44 million.
  • The ability to transfer up to $51 per pupil unit for 2008-2009 from the capital expenditure fund to the general fund.
  • $936,000 for kindergarten health and development screening.
There are several other helpful provisions including an increase in the lease levy beginning in Pay 2009 for the 2009-2010 school year from $100 per pupil to $150 per pupil; clarification of the ballot language for districts seeking to renew a referendum levy at the same amount as previously approved; and the elimination of the general fund subtraction for the permanent school fund beginning in the 2009-2010 school year (approximately $30 million).

The sticky part of the agreement is that $20 million of the revenue used to forge the agreement comes from revenue left unexpended in the alternative compensation fund. Along with the capture of these funds, the bill calls for a two-year moratorium on new districts entering the alternative compensation framework. These related provisions obviously fly in the face of the Governor's funding preferences and would likely be rejected.

From here, the agreement will be melded with the agreements for the other budget areas which will be formulated over the next week or so and then sent to the floor. The agreement will then go to the Governor, where it will most likely meet a veto. But let's not think about that tonight. Let's give the education budget negotiators our thanks for coming to a quick agreement and hope that this is a harbinger that some level of increased funding will find its way to school districts this session.

Time for a Pup-Date! I spent early Monday evening at the Maple Lake School Board meeting, visiting with the board and administration in that SEE member district. While there, board member Connie Munstensteiger asked me who Sunny, the wonder pup, has been doing. You may remember that I reported on Sunny earlier in the session and I am pleased to report that he's doing just great. He manages to apply his own special brand of floor wax (yes, it's the yellow kind) to the kitchen floor a few times a week and the kitchen chair legs serve as his toothpicks, but other than that, he's doing great. He's up to the mid-30 pound range at five months and he's going to get bigger (a lot bigger). He can sit, stay, lie down, and fetch at his current level of development, so, in other words, he's already halfway there to becoming an effective lobbyist. Now all he has to do is learn to beg. And beg some more. And beg some more. And really, really, really beg some more. Once he gets that down, I'll file his papers (provided he doesn't, uh, "wax them") with the Campaign Finance Board and he'll be an official lobbyist.

Rest of the Week. The education policy bill will be on the House floor tomorrow and will then in all likelihood be discussed and approved on the Senate floor on Thursday. The finance and policy packages for education will be traveling separately this session, although they may possibly meet up later in the session as alternative agreements are fashioned in the wake of the expected gubernatorial vetoes of the first round of budget and policy bills. I will keep you posted on these proceedings.

No comments: