Sunday, March 23, 2014

House Releases Omnibus Education Funding Bill Draft.  The House Education Finance Committee has released the strike-everything amendment to HF 3171 that is the first draft of the omnibus education funding bill.  At first blush, this is a solid contribution to continued funding of Minnesota's system of public education that picks up where last year left off.

Here are a few highlights from the bill:

  • 1% increase on the basic formula for the 2014-2015 school year.
  • Extension in eligibility for students to qualify for English Language instruction and an increase in the overall formula.
  • Increase in the safe schools levy for members of intermediate school districts to levy on behalf of the intermediate school districts.
  • Enhanced debt service equalization aid for school districts that have experienced a natural disaster that has affected their buildings.
  • Transfer of alternative compensation revenue to the transition revenue category.
  • $3.5 million to make all reduced price lunches free lunches.
The committee proposes to use the general education basic formula as the method to deliver the increased revenue, which is in the same vein as what this particular committee did last year.  There was compelling testimony to accelerate the findings of the School Facilities Funding Working Group and expand access to revenue for upgrading facilities and also discussion of funding teacher evaluation for non-alternative compensation districts, but that would have left a number of districts receiving little or no new revenue.  The basic formula goes to all districts and in a year when it is likely that less than $100 million will be going into K-12 education, the route that gives the "most to the most" is balanced in both a political and policy sense.

One noticeable absence (at least at this point) is that there does not appear to be an expansion of the early childhood scholarship program in the bill.

Here is a link to the text of the strike-everything amendment.  Do not hesitate to provide me with comments.


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