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Education conferees begin walkthrough on differences in House, Senate E-12 plans

Sen. Chuck Wiger and Rep. Jenifer Loon confer before the start of the first meeting of the omnibus education conference committee May 5. Photo by Paul Battaglia

The House and Senate are roughly $208 million apart on proposed funding for E-12, with the major difference coming from the amount each body’s education plan would add to the per pupil formula.

The conference committee on the omnibus education finance bill (HF844*/SF811) met for the first time Tuesday to begin an overview of the spending and language provisions each side is bringing to the table. Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie) and Sen. Chuck Wiger (DFL-Maplewood) sponsor the bills.

The committee plans to meet Wednesday to complete the side-by-side comparison of the bills.

The House plan calls for nearly $157 million in increased education spending, which would amount to $16.86 billion for the 2016-17 biennium and a 0.6 percent increase to the per pupil funding formula each of the next two years.

The Senate plan would appropriate an additional $365 million over the next two years, with a 1 percent per pupil formula increase each year.

“We don’t set that target, we would like it to be much higher,” said Wiger, who chairs the Senate Education Committee. “It’s our hope that it will be (set higher) by the leadership that is negotiating.”

MORE: View the spreadsheet

Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget calls for nearly $695 million in additional spending for the 2016-17 biennium, with a significant portion ($343 million) going to create a public, universal prekindergarten program for 4-year-olds. Neither the House nor Senate plan includes funding for such a program.

But each version does include added funding for early education programs. The Senate would put $65 million more into School Readiness program that lets school districts partner with private early learning providers to offer pre-kindergarten programming. The House has a $30 million increase in early education scholarships, $9.5 million increase in School Readiness funding and 3.5 million for expansion of the ParentAware early childhood education rating program.

“With our early childhood investments, we are making sure we are closing the achievement gap really before that achievement gap goes into kindergarten,” Loon said. “We may have differences in opinion on how we get there, but I know making a strong push to increase help for early education is something we all share.”

Additionally, the Senate calls for a $51 million increase in long-term maintenance equalization aid and would add $19 million to the Q Comp program that awards teachers for performance. The House version contain no added dollars for those areas.

Policy provisions contain many similarities, some key differences

Although the respective bills differ in some key policy provisions, they do share many similarities in areas such as teacher licensure reform and concurrent enrollment expansion.

Differences in policy provisions between the House and Senate include the House calling for teacher layoff reforms that would require administrators to negotiate a layoff system that includes performance along with tenure in determining unrequested leave of absences. The Senate bill does not.

Other changes proposed by the House that are not in the Senate bill include:

  • reform of the Integration and Achievement levy formula and how it would be used in school districts; and
  • reform to post-secondary enrollment options and concurrent enrollment procedures that increase transferability of credit to state colleges and universities

Other changes proposed by the Senate that are not in the House bill include:

  • modification of the Success for the Future aid from a grant-based program to an aid-based formula for schools that enroll American Indian students;
  • grant-based funding for “Community Centered” schools;
  • grant-based funding for an “Agriculture Educator” program; and
  • direction to the Education Department to investigate the feasibility and need of swimming lessons in all Minnesota public schools.

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