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Division considers a variety of special education funding proposals

The House Education Finance Division considered a menu of special education funding proposals Tuesday.

One multi-prong approach, sponsored by Rep. Mary Murphy (DFL-Hermantown), HF194, as amended, would make several changes to special education funding, including increasing appropriations to school districts and simplifying the number of calculations for aid. The bill was held over for possible omnibus bill inclusion.

HF194 is a possible solution, a solution to make things better for school budgets and addressing the problems that come with present laws on special education, and paying for special education,” Murphy said.

Casper Hill, a father of a special needs child who attends a charter school, expressed concern over the bill. He opposed a provision that would reduce how much charter schools can collect from a student’s resident school district for the cost they incur delivering special education services to that child. It would result in less funding and ultimately a reduction in the quality of special education services at charter schools, Hill said.

While the proposal does reduce charter schools “bill back” to public school districts from 90 percent of unreimbursed delivery costs to 50 percent, a provision would counter the lost revenue by increasing aid appropriated to the serving school to ensure it won’t experience a net loss. It would do this by adding operating referendum and local option revenue to the general education revenue that charters receive beginning in Fiscal Year 2021, according to nonpartisan House Research staff.

Overall, the increase in special education funding would be $360 million annually, with an additional $120 million per year to assist charters. The fiscal note showed the direct impact to the state would be $481 million in Fiscal Year 2021, and approximately $1 billion in the 2022-23 biennium.

The companion, SF402, sponsored by Rep. Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth), awaits action by the Senate E-12 Finance and Policy Committee.

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