Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Eagles have Landed.  The House and Senate Education Finance Divisions both released their bills today and below is a brief summary of the primary provisions contained in each bill.  The House target of $157 million is almost $200 million lower than the Senate's target of $350 million.  Both of these targets are dwarfed by the Governor's target of $694 million, but there are some inventive provisions in both bills.  So starting with the House, here are the highlights in that bill:

  • $33/PU increase in the general education basic formula for next year and an additional $34/PU in the subsequent year.  This constitutes a  formula increase of approximately 0.6% in each year of the biennium and costs $97 million.
  • Change in compensatory formula.  Current levels of funding generated with formula including concentration factor is held harmless.  Future revenue distribution does not include concentration factor.
  • Repeal of the Student Achievement Levy--the new general education levy created in 2013--of $20 million.  This levy is then spread to several other programs, sometimes without directly generating any new revenue.
  • Increase in the equity formula for non-metro districts in the second year of the biennium.  This provides an additional $8.5 million for non-metro districts ($2.5 aid/$6.0 levy).
  • $2.5 million in increased extended time aid for school districts and $2.0 million in increased extended time aid for charter schools.
  • $9 million to pay for costs associated with concurrent enrollment.
  • $6 million for the Minnesota Reading Corps.
  • Cuts in aid for integration and alternative facilities aid.  The aid reduction is offset by levy increases, leaving the total revenue amounts largely the same.
  • $9.5 million increase in School Readiness over the biennium ($4.5 million in FY 16 and $5.0 million in FY 17).
  • $30 million increase in Early Childhood Scholarships.  Amount for Pathway 2 scholarships capped, but Pathway 2 not eliminated.
  • $3.6 million reduction ($1.8 million per year) for Minnesota Department of Education.
Here is a link to the documents.  Bill:  HF 844 delete-all  Summary:  HF 844 Summary

And now to the Senate:

  • 1% increase in the basic formula in each year of the biennium.  Total cost is $173 million.
  • $20 million for districts not participating in QComp to perform teacher evaluation duties.
  • $ 4 million to pay for costs associated with concurrent enrollment.
  • $ 8 million in incentives to hire student support personnel.
  • Long-term facilities revenue program created at $200/PU in FY 17 (Pay 16), $300/PU in FY 18 (Pay 17), and $400/PU in FY 19 (Pay 18).  $63 million in aid to equalize levy associated with the program in FY 17.
  • $4.6 million for Reading Corps.
  • $70 million increase in School Readiness
  • $5 million increase in Early Childhood Scholarships.
Documents:  Bill:  SF 811 Delete-all  State Aid Tracking Sheet:  SF 811 State Aid Amounts/Changes
School Readiness Run:  SF 811--New School Readiness  General Revenue Run:  SF 811--General Education Change

So there you have the outlines of the two bills.  Again,the lower legislative budget targets have made it difficult to a bill that truly meets the needs of the state's education community.  The Governor has the highest target, but with so much of it invested in universal pre-kindergarten programs, it leaves room for little else.  Right now, the biggest increase in the general education basic formula amount is 1% (shared by the Senate and Governor) and that lags well behind the lowest measure of inflation.  There are good things in both the House and Senate bills, but the centerpiece of school funding is largely ignored.  It's difficult to be too critical at this juncture because there is a lot of territory yet to be covered before the May 18 adjournment, but if there were ever a year when education could have been "caught up" to a great extent after a decade-plus of uneven funding, this was the year to do that, especially after the forecast surplus ballooned to $1.9 billion.

There's still time to right the ship.  I would say that if you took the Senate framework with the Governor's target (the difference between the targets going on the formula) and incorporated in some of the elements from the House bill, you'd have one heckuva bill.  So, here's hoping things fall together.

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