Early Childhood Day at the Capitol. Both the Senate and House Education Finance Committees dealt with the issue of early childhood education today. While the hearing on the House side of the street was informational in nature with a variety of education organizations providing their perspectives on the issue, the Senate hearing focused on several bills, most notably SF 6 (Hoffman), a bill that would create a universal program for 4-year-olds by weighting them at the same level as a regular K-12 student. The fiscal note for the bill came in a $416 million for the biennium, which knocked a lot of people over (including me) at first blush due to the cost. The cost estimate is clearly higher than most people expected given that the implementation of all-day kindergarten didn't cost nearly that much, but after some quick back-of-the-envelope calculations, it's readily apparent why the cost is what it is. First, it's important to note that the $416 million number is for the full biennium. When all-day kindergarten was funded, it was for only one year of the biennium (that cost is built into the base going forward so it no longer shows up as an individual funding initiative). Second, kindergarten students had a "weight" which was over a half of the weight of a first-grader. 4-year-olds currently do not have a "weight," meaning the student count goes from 0.0 to 1.0 instead of approximately 0.5 to 1.0 as it did when all-day kindergarten was funded. If universal pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds was fully funded, it would soak up most of the revenue that will likely be in the Governor's and Legislature's E-12 target and there are more priorities than just early childhood education floating around among decision-makers right now.
In my testimony before the Senate Committee in support of SF 6, I pointed out that there will be some complications in terms of transportation and instructional space that will have to be considered in conjunction with the expansion of early childhood programs.
Here is an MPR story on the Senate hearing: http://blogs.mprnews.org/capitol-view/2015/01/senate-dfl-preschool-plan-has-hefty-price/
Road Work. I've been on the road the past couple of nights. Tuesday night I attended the Byron School Board meeting and gave a presentation to the board about SEE. Tonight, I attended the Legislative Forum for the St. Croix River Education District, giving a short presentation about the SEE platform and facilitating a discussion between the audience and Representatives Bob Barrett and newly-elected Jason Rarick. The session is hectic, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy getting out and meeting with members on their home turf. Feel free to call me if you'd like to have me out to your district. If I'm free, I'll be there.
School Finance 101 Blog. Dr. Bruce Baker from Rutgers writes a blog about school funding and testing policy that is just about the best thing on the web when it comes to cutting through the excess verbiage and undue posturing that often accompanies discussions of education funding and policy. Here is his latest entry (published today) on why money matters. I haven't given it in an in-depth read, but at first blush, it just about says it all. Here is a link to Dr. Baker's blog. I strongly recommend subscribing to it and having his latest entries delivered directly to your e-mail inbox.
School Finance 101: https://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/