The regular session may be over, but the work of the House Education Finance Division isn’t. Members convened Wednesday to review and hear testimony regarding a compromise agreement reached by legislative leaders and Gov. Tim Walz on the omnibus education finance bill.
No action was taken, but the agreement is expected to be voted on as a bill during the upcoming special session.
The agreement would increase education spending by $543 million over the base budget in the upcoming biennium. That’s a $373 million decrease from the House’s target, and a $312 million increase over the Senate’s. In total, $20.1 billion would be appropriated for education during the 2020-21 biennium, 41 percent of the state’s overall two-year spending.
“[It] reflects a number of significant House priorities that we went into conference committee hoping to achieve,” explained Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Mpls), the division chair.
The largest new investment, $388.8 million, would go to increase the general education formula by 2 percent each year of the biennium. It more closely aligns to the House’s proposed 3 percent and 2 percent increase, compared to the Senate proposal of a half a percent increase each year.
Ultimately, most policy was dropped from the agreement, including House proposals that would have made changes to the teacher licensure system, required school districts to adopt a comprehensive sexual health education model, and required districts to use non-exclusionary disciplinary policies and practices.
Also cut, noncontroversial items such as measures to prohibit lunch shaming and requirements regarding radon testing in schools. Both of which have received bipartisan support.
Most of the adopted policy provisions are technical or were contained in both the House and Senate proposals. Though, Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL-Hopkins) did note that substantive provisions pertaining to dyslexia screening and increasing teachers of color did make it into the agreement.
“We kept hearing the refrain, ‘But it’s not a policy year,’ so I am really looking forward to doing a lot of policy next year,” Youakim said.
A couple of the top priorities from the House proposal that made it into the agreement include a $90.7 million increase for special education cross-subsidy aid and a $46.79 million appropriation to maintain 4,000 voluntary prekindergarten seats that were set to expire.
“Ninety million [dollars] in special education to freeze the underfunding, after years of allowing that to grow goes a long way toward stabilizing school budgets,” Davnie said.
Other appropriations for the 2020-21 biennium include:
Notable House 2020-21 appropriations that were not included in the agreement include: