It may have taken until 3 a.m. Sunday to get there, but when they did, co-chairs Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie) and Sen. Chuck Wiger (DFL-Maplewood) maintained their optimism that the conference committee report on HF844*/SF811 reflects a compromise that will address the diverse education needs of the state’s children. Whether it will become law remains to be seen, as Gov. Mark Dayton has threatened to veto the bill unless it contains $550 million in added education dollars and includes provisions to create and fund half-day universal prekindergarten.
The bulk of the new funding would be dedicated to a per pupil formula increase of 1.5 percent in 2016 and 2 percent in 2017.
The conference committee report is much closer to the Senate’s version, which would have added $365 million to E-12 over the next biennium. The House version passed late last month would have increased education funding by nearly $157 million.
The amended bill retained a House provision to increase by $30 million an early education scholarship program that provides preschool scholarships for low income families, and added an additional $1 million. It also retained a provision of the Senate version which emphasized increased funding for school-based Head Start early learning programs.
Other provisions the conferees adopted in their report include:
· $31.9 million increase in long term facilities maintenance aid;
· $9.5 million increase to the Q Comp program that gives schools funding to award teachers for performance;
· $4 million increase to fund concurrent enrollment programs in high schools;
· $3.5 million for the Minnesota Reading Corps program;
· $3.5 million increase for Parent Aware, the state’s recently developed ratings system for participating early learning child care providers; and
· $3.1 million increase for the American Indian education formula-based aid.