Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Senate Releases Education Budget Package.  The Senate Education Funding Division released its budget bill for the coming session this morning.  The bill spends about $48 million in additional revenue, but when combined with the approximately $50 million generated from allowing a set of districts to pay off their maximum effort loans earlier, the total revenue the Senate proposes to send out to school districts is in the neighborhood of $100 million.  The centerpiece of the bill is an early childhood program similar to the one proposed by the Governor this year.  It would be a voluntary program that weights a pre-kindergarten student at 0.6 pupil units.  Priority would be given to areas with high levels of poverty and/or do not have access to highly-rated private childcare providers.  The additional state financial commitment would be $24 million for the 2016-2017 school year and another $72 million in tails in the next biennium.

Other proposed spending includes:
  • $9.1 million to the QComp program to accommodate more applicants
  • $13.1 million for Senator Kent's grant program for student support staff
  • $10 million to pay for teacher development and evaluation costs for non-Qcomp districts
  • $3 million for the Reading Corps
  • $2.5 million for Concurrent Enrollment
  • $2.25 million for a Paraprofessional Pathway to a Teaching License
  • $2.0 million for Student Teachers in Shortage Areas
  • $2.2 million for Full Service Community Schools
  • $10.1 million for STEM improvements through Generation Connect
There is some increased equalization in the bill.  $4.2 million comes by increasing the equalizing factor for the Total Operating Capital program.  The bill also indexes the equalizing factors for both tiers of the debt service equalization program.  The indexing will not take place until Pay 2018, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

As is the case with the House bill, there is a raft of grants ranging from $85,000 to $1 million.  Here are the grants and their amounts:
  • $1 million for Way to Grow
  • $750,000 for the Parent/Child Grant Program
  • $1.1 million for Indian Teacher Preparation Grants
  • $310,000 for Collaborative Urban Educator Program
  • $350,000 for Museum and Education Centers
  • $500,000 for Teacher Governed Schools
  • $500,000 for the Education Innovation Partners Cooperative Center
  • $200,000 for Race 2 Reduce Water Conservation Grants
  • $300,000 for a Singing Based Literacy Program (Rock 'n' Read)
  • $250,000 for the Minnesota Council on Economic Education
In the spirit of yesterday's post and my on-going efforts to make sure no grant is left behind, let's make sure these Grants somehow get included:

The basketball-playing Grant brothers Harvey and Horace

The late ultra-suave British actor Cary Grant

The not-as-suave British actor Hugh Grant

The extremely talented vocalist Amy Grant

Mr. Electric Avenue Eddy Grant

Fictional newsroom tough guy Lou Grant

Enough with the nonsense, the bill will is scheduled for mark-up tomorrow (as is the House bill).  The Senate funding bill and policy bill will then be merged into one bill and sent onto the Finance Committee where it will become part of a supplemental budget bill that will address all aspects of state government funding.  It will then to to the Tax Committee and the floor.  

After the House finishes marking up its bill tomorrow, the bill will go to the Tax Committee and then the Ways and Means Committee.  It appears that the House is planning on employing the same procedure and will put all of its funding divisions under one umbrella bill to be negotiated with the Senate's comprehensive spending bill.

As has been pointed out in the media, there is a wide difference between the approaches taken by the House and Senate this year and with just over five weeks remaining until the constitutionally-mandated adjournment date, the chasm may be too wide for the legislative equivalents of  Evel Knieval to clear.

Here are the links to the text and supporting documents for the Senate education funding bill:

There are some discrepancies in the numbers between the tracking sheet that was handed out in committee and the one online and I will try to get to the bottom of those differences.

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