House Education Funding Bill Clears Ways and Means Committee. HF 844 cleared the House Ways and Means Committee on a party-line voice vote Wednesday afternoon. There was only one witness--the president of the Robbinsdale Federation of Teachers--who provided testimony and that testimony was critical of the House target. We've heard a lot about the House budget target for E-12 of $157 million over the past month and while I always take statements at face value, there were enough comments provided by members of the majority caucus insinuating that they are more than willing to increase their spending on education as the final bill is negotiated. What is a little maddening is that so many members of the majority caucus keep referencing the $1 billion biennium-to-biennium increase in education funding. It always has to be pointed out that this number signifies an increase in the base funding for education that is the result of decisions made last biennium, especially two full years of kindergarteners being weighted as a full student. Add to that increased pupil growth in terms of actual bodies entering the system and automatic increases in special education funding (which still doesn't address the massive shortfall school districts throughout the state experience in terms of special education funding) and the increase in funding due to changes in Local Optional Revenue (and referendum levy increases). So, while $1 billion is surely a nice chunk of change, it doesn't address inflation in the general education formula at all.
The Senate omnibus funding bill--SF 811--will be up in the Senate Finance Committee at some juncture tomorrow. The Senate Finance Committee convenes at 8:30 AM, but the Senate Transportation funding and policy bill is first on the agenda. It is likely that bill will take quite a bit of time to review and discuss, which may push discussion of SF 811 into the early afternoon (or perhaps evening). Stay tuned. There usually isn't much in terms of attempts to attach major amendments to bills between the time they leave their finance division and the floor, but that doesn't mean attempts won't be made to re-direct some of the dollars in the bill to different purposes. I will certainly let you know what, if anything, happens.