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'Prudent, restrained' omnibus E-12 education finance bill gets division OK

House Photography file photo

Responding to the current public health and economic crisis, the omnibus E-12 education finance bill seeks to make small but strategic investments to bolster educational opportunities, provide districts more flexibility and ensure hourly school staff receive pay, according to Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Mpls).

“I’m kind of hesitant to call it an omnibus bill, but a collection of no-, or little-cost, education finance provisions,” he told the House Education Finance Division during a remote hearing Monday.

The division reviewed and took amendments on a delete-all amendment to HF4542. The proposed legislation was amended and approved 12-8 via a roll-call vote along party lines. It now heads to the House Ways and Means Committee. There is no Senate companion.

Davnie sponsors the proposal, which includes provisions that would require school districts and charter schools to pay hourly employees for changes in school employment practices as a result of COVID-19-related school closures and the conversion to distance-learning programs.

Omnibus E-12 education finance bill discussed in House Education Finance Division 5/4/20

The bill would also require districts to reimburse companies they contract with, such as private bus companies, if the company chooses to pay employees for hours they were scheduled to work, but did not, during the distance-learning period. 

Additionally, it would grant the Department of Education power to waive requirements related to earning credit, class advancement, or graduation, based on a COVID-19 disruption.

HF4542 is a prudent, restrained effort to make a few strategic investments as best we can to balance the inequities that have been exposed by this virus and the intertwined economic challenges that are being felt across the state,” Davnie said.

Rep. Ron Kresha (R-Little Falls) unsuccessfully offered an amendment that would have allocated $15 million of the state’s share of federal CARES Act funds to the Department of Education. The department would have then awarded grants geared toward enhancing broadband connection and bolstering distance learning.

DFL members opposed the amendment, noting that it would have allowed funding to also be granted to non-public and private schools.

Other notable provisions would:

  • make permanent the ability for early middle college programs to serve a student who is not yet 22 years old;
  • eliminate the state requirement that an increasing portion of compensatory revenue be reserved for extended time programming;
  • authorize additional uses for the Regional Library Systems’ telecommunications access money;
  • address school finance formula glitches resulting from the conversion to the distance-learning model;
  • adjust school aid formulas so revenue is not lost to schools due to COVID-19 closures; and
  • authorize certain fund transfers for Marshall County Central, Ogilvie Public Schools and Duluth Public Schools to switch levy authority from its Long Term Facilities Maintenance revenue program to its debt-service account to repay board-approved bonds for new facilities.

 

What's in the bill?

The following are selected bills that have been incorporated in part or in whole into the omnibus E-12 education finance bill:

 


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