Monday, April 28, 2014

Conference Committee Triple Play.  All three education-related conference committees were working today, with provisions being adopted in two of them.  The conference committees on HF 2180--the Health Insurance Transparency Act--and HF 2397--the Education Policy bill--adopted provisions deemed either same or similar in both the House and Senate versions of the bills respectively.  Of these two conference committees, the one most likely to finish its work first is HF 2180.  There are a number of differences that remain between the two bills, most notably relating to the treatment of self-ensured districts, but I can envision a scenario where these differences are ironed out in no time flat.

Things will proceed more slowly in conference committee on the Education Policy bill.  Today's meeting went for between five and six hours, largely because that is how many same and similar provisions contained in both bills.  Much of the content in each bill resulted from task forces and working groups that were convened by the Minnesota Department of Education last interim.  Add to that the comprehensive English Language learner provisions authored by Representative Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul) and Senator Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-Minneapolis) that were adopted today and you've produced a pretty good sized set of pages for the final bill.

The progress on HF 3172--the omnibus supplemental appropriations bill--has been stalled by the inability to reach an agreement on the budget targets that the House, Senate, and Governor have to agree upon before final decisions can be reached.  It is even more complicated this year because once the "macro" target that will govern the total amount of total spending is reached, that amount will have to be split into the targets that will govern each separate budget area (E-12 education, higher education, natural resources, state departments, etc.).

Contact Governor and Legislators.  It is crucial that in you contact legislators and the Governor's office as soon as possible, urging them to support the House education funding target (more than $30 million higher than the Senate target and $70 million higher than the Governor's target).  Further, the House has a 1% increase on the general education basic formula, which is extremely important to SEE districts.  There are a number of other spending initiatives (ECFE, scholarships, and teacher evalution revenue in the Senate bill; increases in EL funding and increases in Learning Readiness in both bills) that are worthy of consideration, but in a year when little money will be forthcoming, the dollars should be expended in the way that gets money equally to all school districts throughout the state and that is the general education basic formula.  So call the Governor's office, House and Senate leadership, and the conferees with your thoughts on the matter.

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