After carefully considering Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget recommendations earlier in session, education policymakers are looking to expand the Legislature’s commitment to early education while also closing the doors on two of its struggling schools.
HF890, the omnibus education finance bill, sponsored by Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie), proposes changes to bolster voluntary pre-kindergarten offerings across the state. It would also close the Perpich Center for Arts Education.
The House Education Finance Committee tabled the bill Wednesday for further discussion. Amendments are expected to be offered and action taken at Friday’s 9 a.m. meeting. Its companion, SF718, sponsored by Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester), awaits action by the Senate E-12 Finance Committee.
The bill would create an office of early education and development with a director appointed by the governor to oversee program implementation and growth. An appropriation of $4 million over the 2018-19 biennium would be allocated to create early education resource hubs across the state.
It would also create a targeted compensatory revenue. Statewide allocations of $11 million in Fiscal Year 2018 and $15 million in Fiscal Year 2019 would be distributed based on students eligible for free and reduced-price lunches.
A large increase in funding would come via a 1.5 percent increase in the General Education Basic Formula, totaling nearly $275 million in General Fund spending over the biennium.
The formula is the backbone on which public school districts stand, providing 63 percent of total E-12 funding in Fiscal Year 2017. Based on how many students are enrolled, it determines the amount of state funding each district is allocated. The per-pupil formula would increase by $91 each year, from $6,067 to $6,158 in Fiscal Year 2018, and $6,249 in Fiscal Year 2019.
However, for all the opportunity it offers, the bill was not met without contention.
Controversial provisions include the elimination of tenure-based priority when recalling teachers from an unrequested leave of absence, the inclusion of “E-Learning”’ days counting as days of instruction during inclement weather, and the elimination of funding for the Perpich Center for Arts Education.
After an Office of the Legislative Auditor report detailed its long-held and continued challenges, the Perpich Center would be defunded, and officially close effective June 30, 2018. Students would be transferred and property sold.
The accompanying Crosswinds Arts and Science School in Woodbury would be conveyed into another school district, likely St. Paul Public Schools.
In the wake of the closures, the bill would establish a new arts education specialist position within the Department of Education that would offer resource services to enhance arts education opportunities in school districts across the state.
Other notable provisions would:
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: