Passed 94-29, as amended, by the House Thursday, the omnibus education finance bill would provide increased and ongoing funding for school and student safety and security.
Sponsored by Rep. Jenifer Loon (Eden Prairie), HF4328 contains a compilation of E-12 and higher education funding and policy provisions, including $35.2 million in additional investments for Fiscal Year 2019, with $28.5 million of that going to fund an array of school and student safety enhancement options.
The bill now heads to the Senate.
With the attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. having occurred days before the 2018 session began, the topic of school safety has dominated education committee discussions and legislation.
“This wasn’t exactly the plan I had coming into committee, focusing on school safety, but I think it was important,” Loon said. “Whether or not those tragic events had happened, that spurred this, I think that having a discussion about our schools and how safe they are … is critically important.”
A number of DFL members, including House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park), contented that fortifying school buildings is only one element needed to ensure children’s safety.
“Mass shootings don’t just happen at schools, they happen in churches, in restaurants, in military bases, in movie theatres and on college campuses,” Hortman said. “We need to take steps to address gun violence and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people so that not only are our children safe in school but so Minnesotan’s are safe everywhere.”
She also questioned whether allocating over 90 percent of education’s overall spending target toward school safety was the most effective use of funds.
“Every Minnesotan deserves the opportunity to get a higher education without being crippled with student debt for decades,” Hortman said. “Republicans are choosing to underfund higher education which will lead to program cuts and tuition increases across the state and already has.”
Over two dozen amendments were proposed during floor debate, many of which passed or passed as amended. These include:
Another successfully offered amendment pertains to the ongoing debate around pre-kindergarten funding.
Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Mpls) proposed extending the one-time appropriation of $50 million for the expansion of preschool programs beyond the 2018-19 school year.
Previously, Loon contended the funding extension should be handled during the next budget cycle.
However, she modified her stance and offered a successful amendment to Davnie’s proposal.
“Knowing that this is an important issue for the governor… and knowing that some of our discussions about a supplemental package will probably come down to this issue, I’m offering this amendment as something that I think would be a good compromise to get us through this,” she said.
Her proposal stipulates that the extended funding be used for scholarships. This would allow parents to take their child out of school-based voluntary prekindergarten and enroll him or her into a mixed delivery system, which are usually operated by a private or community-based organization. She reasoned that it provided parents with more flexibility.
“This preserves that parent choice, which I think is critical to what we are doing in early childhood, she said.
Davnie opposed the change citing research that indicates school-based voluntary prekindergarten is more effective.
“Dartmouth [College] just recently released a review of pre-kindergarten programs, you know what they found, the most cost-effective pre-kindergarten programs were the school-based programs and the most effective programs were the school-based programs,” he said.
Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations in the bill include:
Policy provisions in the bill would do the following:
What's in the bill?
The following are selected bills that have been incorporated in part, or in whole, into the omnibus education finance bill: