Sunday, February 08, 2009

Dueling Stimuli. No word yet as to whether or not the Congressional conference committee will feature banjo music, but it appears that the Senate is now poised to pass its version of the stimulus package with the Senate/House conference committee set to begin its deliberations shortly thereafter.

The vote in the Senate will not be significantly bi-partisan, but enough Republicans (it appears three) will be supporting the administration, which will give the Democratic majority the votes it needs to avoid the procedural pitfalls that often derail legislation in Washington.
The Senate has pared back the House version of the bill (much to the chagrin of House leadership) and has added a bit more in terms of tax breaks, including tax credits for first-time homebuyers. The education provisions of the House bill have been changed as well, but it appears that the additional special education aid and Title I money that would be authorized under the House bill are also contained in the Senate bill at similar levels. The big change is in the area of the proposed school infrastructure repair, which the Senate appears to eliminate in its bill.

While it is difficult to argue against school infrastructure repair and energy retro-fitting, the formula used in the House bill was extremely flawed (and that depicition is kind). Under the distribution formula used by the House, Minneapolis would receive nearly $26 million in construction money and St. Paul would receive nearly $21 million. Anoka-Hennepin, the largest school district in the state, would receive less than $4 million. Huh? Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan would receive less than $1 million. South Washington County would receive less than $500,000. Stated mildly, the formula--roughly based on free-and-reduced price lunch and other Title I indicators--used in the House legislation is a travesty.
The conference committee on the stimulus legislation will likely be rather abrupt and come to a quick resolution and final numbers on the bill should be available early next week if the Administration's timeline of passage by mid-February is met.

The best comparison of the House and Senate packages was in today's StarTribune.

Speaking of the StarTribune. The StarTribune has really done a great job covering education policy this year and had another solid story in this morning's Sunday paper. Today's story concentrated on budget cutting going on in East Metro school districts, including SEE members Forest Lake, South Washington County, and White Bear Lake.



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