E-12 House and Senate bills: worlds apart

When the E-12 conference committee met for the first time, co-chair Representative Greiling opened the meeting by going around the table and having everyone introduce themselves and say the name of their favorite book when they were little (her favorite was Little Women). As they went around the table, jokes were cracked and the atmosphere was light.

It was a cordial start to a conference committee that faces a considerable task: it must reconcile two vastly different approaches to E-12 education (and garner the Governor’s approval). As one lobbyist said to me, these bills are “worlds apart.” Both the Governor and the House utilize one-time payment shifts of over $1 billion and one-time federal stimulus money to avoid cuts to E-12 education. The Senate does not use the payment shift budget gimmick, and follows its formula of 7% across-the-board cuts, which is then reduced to a 3% cut thanks to the one-time federal stimulus money.

At the moment, the E-12 education conference committee is still waiting to get their “target” from leadership before they can finish negotiating the bill.

Here’s a run-down of the major dollar-related proposals from the Governor, House and Senate (get the spreadsheet tracking all budget items here):

Use of federal economic recovery money:

  • Governor: Cuts state funding for E-12 education by $384 million in FY 2010-11 and backfills cuts with $424 million in one-time federal economic recovery dollars in FY 2010-11, resulting in a net increase in funding.
  • House: Cuts state funding for E-12 education by $276 million in FY 2010-11 and backfills cuts with $276 million in one-time federal economy recovery dollars.
  • Senate: Cuts state funding by $973 million in FY 2010-11, partially replaces with $520 million in federal economic recovery funds.

Delay of payments to schools to artificially lower the FY 2010-11 biennium budget deficit (this could force some districts into drawing down their cash reserves or short-term borrowing):

  • Governor: Delays $1.3 billion in state aid to school districts.
  • House: Delays $1.8 billion in state aid to school districts – a larger payment shift than the Governor.
  • Senate: Does not delay school payments.

E-12 spending increases:

Governor:

  • Additional $91 million for schools that improve student test scores as part of a new “pay for progress plan.”
  • Expands the Q-Comp program to all school districts. The Q-Comp program is a 2005 initiative from the Governor that restructures teacher pay and professional development. Funding would come from state contributions and higher local property taxes.
  • $10 million for a new pilot “Summer of Success” program to set up an intensive summer school for 8th graders that are tested as not yet proficient in math or reading.

House:

  • Holds K-12 state aid to schools at FY 2008-09 levels for next two years.
  • Special education funding is held at FY 2008-09 levels, which includes a $15 million increase for the 2010 fiscal year and an additional $50 million for the 2011 fiscal year for the special education basic formula.
  • “Minnesota Miracle” (a new state funding system for schools) would begin phasing in staring FY 2014.

Senate:

  • Adopts several new spending proposals from the Governor (though sometimes funded at lower levels than the Governor proposed), including the Summer of Success Program, Principals’ Leadership Institute and Math & Science Teacher Academies.
  • Establishes quality rating and improvement system for prekindergarten and pilot projects of prekindergarten education allowances for low-income children (at a cost of $14 million in FY 2010-11).

E-12 spending cuts:

  • The Governor holds state spending for K-12 education essentially flat for the next biennium (after factoring in federal money) and changes the state-funded Perpich Center for Arts Education into a charter school.
  • The House also holds K-12 education funding flat for the next biennium (after factoring in federal money).
  • The Senate proposes a 3% reduction in state K-12 spending in FY 2010-11 (after factoring in federal money).

Mandate relief and revenue raising for school districts:

  • The Governor has none.
  • The House lessens various maintenance of effort requirements, allowing school districts to have greater flexibility in where they spend money. The House also eliminates truth in taxation public hearing requirements and extends the ability of school districts to transfer money from their operating capital account to the general fund for another two years.
  • The Senate eliminates maintenance of effort requirements for some aspects of the safe schools levy, reduces maintainance of efforts requirements for library funding, and allows school districts to use learning and development revenue for general education purposes for FY 2010 and FY 2011 only.

That’s just a brief overview – please feel free to comment on this blog, add details and your own thoughts on these bills.

-Katherine Blauvelt

About Katherine Blauvelt

Katherine Blauvelt served as the Minnesota Budget Project’s policy analyst from 2007 to 2009.
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