With the fate of voluntary pre-kindergarten programs across the state to be determined, a House-Senate conference committee met Wednesday to discuss details in proposed legislation that has split lawmakers down the aisle this session.
A conference committee meeting detailed the differences in the two omnibus education finance bills. Nonpartisan House and Senate staff reviewed the bills side-by-side for comparison.
The House passed HF890*/ SF718, sponsored by Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie), 75-56 March 31. The Senate amended and passed the bill 38-28 April 4. Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) is the Senate sponsor.
The House proposal would increase the General Education Basic Formula funding by 1.25 percent over the 2018-19 biennium, or $205.9 million in additional funding. The Senate would increase the formula by 1.5 percent, a $298.6 million increase.
“We have an opportunity to really invest in our kids and our shared future,” Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius told the conferees.
But both bills contain numerous policy provisions, something that Gov. Mark Dayton has said he doesn’t want to be included in omnibus finance bills.
Both versions would allow school boards to adopt “E-learning days” in lieu of the long-held “snow day” during inclement weather. Districts could provide electronic instruction and count the day on its instructional hour calendar.
The proposals would each implement the teacher licensure overhaul originally proposed in HF140, dissolving the Board of Teaching into the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board, and create a four-tier licensure system.
The defunding of voluntary pre-k is the most prominent policy provision to catch the ire of the governor. Currently, $25 million in base funding serves an estimated 3,300 4-year-olds at 74 school districts.
Dayton’s budget recommendation would increase biennial spending to $175 million, but under House and Senate bills, it would go unfunded — replaced instead by $48 million in school readiness adjustment credits and $24.6 million for early learning scholarships.
Another controversial provision would require a school board to negotiate an unrequested leave of absence plan with teacher representatives, and eliminate the use of seniority as a basis of proficiency. It would essentially abolish the so-called “last-in-first-out” policy governing teacher terminations.
Both bills offer several different policy provisions, albeit often uncontentious. The House version would:
The Senate version would:
Public testimony is expected to be taken at a future hearing.
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