Conference Committee Day 3. It's a short report today. The conference committee began today's hearing at about 2:30 PM and met for around two hours, covering two subjects. The first subject was extended time revenue. Both bills change the label extended time revenue to extended time support revenue in both bills, with the House adding just under $2.5 million to the program. Both bills also allow area learning centers, alternative programs, and contract alternative programs to utilize extended time support revenue for academic purposes during the school day.
The discussion then turned to the Early Childhood Scholarship Program and a number of interests spoke in favor of that program. The House bill increases the Early Childhood Scholarship Program by $30 million and the Senate increases the program by $5 million. The Senate's early childhood education program centers around a significant increase in the Learning Readiness Program instead of a significant expansion in the scholarship program. Neither bill embraces the Governor's universal pre-kindergarten program either in scope or magnitude. This issue area is the one area that will require considerable negotiating to put the bill to bed next week. It's kind of like a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors in that the House has made a strong statement against the Governor's plan and has instead stressed the Early Childhood Scholarship Program. The Governor has gone in the opposite direction and the Senate appears to be finding Baby Bear's "just right" position on the issue by putting some money in scholarships and investing heavily (and implementing a number of new requirements) in the Learning Readiness Program and putting a bit more into Early Childhood Scholarships.
The conference committee will not be meeting again until next Monday. There is a rumor going around the the E-12 budget targets will be delivered on Monday, but I find that a bit difficult to believe unless the tax target is announced at the same time. I don't think anything happens in any budget area until the tax target is determined. If that all breaks on Monday, it is likely that the budget bills could be put together in a week and a special session avoided. Needless to say, it is going to be ten days of pandemonium. I will keep you posted.