The House has brought a series of omnibus bills to the floor for votes of the full body this week, including a package with provisions related to both K-12 and higher education that was approved.
Key higher ed. provisions help students save money through reforms that reduce the need for remedial classes, as well as a measure to increase awareness of loan forgiveness programs. The bill also expands higher education opportunities for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
As chairman of the House Higher Education Policy and Finance and Committee, I am pleased we once again were able to keep the focus on students to provide them with financial assistance and opportunities. It was good to see this committee work together to shape a bipartisan package that will help students at public and private institutions alike.
It is important to note both higher education and K-12 are fully funded through June 30 of 2017 under the two-year budget enacted in 2015.
Our work this year was aimed at reform and improvements within the existing budget framework. That said, some budget adjustments allowed us to pass K-12 legislation which bill re-invests $56 million of K-12 cost savings back into programs proven to boost learning outcomes. Other measures including innovative new proposals to bring broadband to students across the state, as well as programs to reduce Minnesota's teacher shortage and increase diversity in the state's teacher workforce are part of the package as it passed.
As a refresher on that two-year state budget put in place last year, we passed a fully-funded state budget that saw $525 million in increased funding for K-12 education, and $166 million for Higher Education. We invested historic amounts in early education, increased per-pupil K-12 funding by 2 percent each year, and lowered tuition for thousands of students at MNSCU campuses across the state in 2017.
House Republicans also have proposed tax relief for students with college debt with a first-in-the-nation tax credit for loan payments, as well as a tax credit for families who are saving for their children's higher education costs.
Both provisions are under consideration as a part of the tax bill conference committee. We are looking to pick up that bill – along with a long-term transportation package – in the final month of this session.
I will keep you in the loop as things progress.