Wednesday, May 05, 2010

So What Else Happened Yesterday? Back to the description of the proceedings of May 4. I was talking about the Senate policy bill, but it also has to be pointed out that the Senate has three (yes, count 'em, 3, tres, a trio) education funding bills and they were all heard in the Senate Full Finance Committee yesterday and will be heard in the Senate Tax Committee later this week. The bills are SF 3028, SF 3063, and SF 3064. These bills are all being used as vehicles and, in two instances, have nothing to do with the original language in each respective bill.

Here's the shorthand on what the bills contain now:

SF 3028: Reductions in a number of education programs ranging from magnet school grants to the Perpich School for the Arts.

SF 3063: Changes in the Alternative Facilities Program, making Wayzata eligible and reducing aid by approximately $7 million to Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth. Revenue will stay the same for each district, but aid will be replaced with levy.

SF 3064: Seven fund transfers for various districts.

Again, I don't know why the Senate chose to have three different funding bills. It's always nice to have a couple of bill "shells" available if a body wants to start loading up bills and sending them to the other body in a frantic rush to get things done. It certainly adds an element of confusion to the end of session, but it's not a Gordian Knot in any way. It all boils down to which vehicle the Senate decides to use when combining their education funding provisions and how they go through the system. Truth be told, none of these bills may figure in how the Senate puts its bill together, as some of the larger budget issues--particularly the payment shift--may find their way into a wide-ranging budget bill that addresses appropriations and policy across a wide range of government service areas. This possibility becomes even more likely given today's unallotment decision by the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile. . .back in the House last night. The House Tax Committee took up HF 2431, the House omnibus K-12 Funding and Policy Bill last evening at about 11:15 PM and things were spirited. The only substantive change to the bill was the insertion of a reverse referendum mechanism to the provision that allows school districts to renew an existing referendum by board resolution (at the same amount). The Governor opposes that provision and it's not in the Senate bill, but the House appears committed to pushing this as hard as they can. It's a good provision and it would be extremely helpful to a number of SEE districts. We need to convince the Senate to accept it in conference committee.

The rest of the House Tax Committee proceedings disintegrated into an edgy discussion of the New Minnesota Miracle article of HF 2431. Of course, a number of Republican legislators who did their best during the eight years they controlled the House to provide formula increases to school districts don't cotton to the assertion that schools are underfunded by the amount--$1.8 billion when fully implemented--that's outlined in this iteration of the New Minnesota Miracle. But as has been pointed out by numerous studies and less formal analysis, the failure to keep up with inflation over the past 20 years is well documented and undeniable. The other point leveled against Representative Greiling was her failure to describe how she planned to "pay for it" when it begins to get phased-in in FY 2014. It's a good question, but it's really irrelevant and putting a new formula into law, even if it is never fully implemented, is not unprecedented. Representative Greiling simply is trying to put the framework in place. It's not a perfect formula framework, but it's the boldest step forward the education community has seen in many years in terms of a commitment to major formula change and funding adequacy. Procuring this funding is going to be a challenge, but it would be impossible if the suggestion weren't put forward and seriously pursued.

I'm here tonight to cover the House omnibus K-12 Education Funding and Policy bill as it moves ot the House Ways and Means Committee for its final stop before it hits the House floor, where it will likely be debated and voted upon on Friday.

No comments: