State aid for K-12 education is primed to dramatically increase in the coming biennium.
The omnibus education finance bill would make appropriations of $23.2 billion, a 10.6% increase over base spending or $2.22 billion in raw dollars.
Both parties agree that schools desperately need this funding boost. However, they disagree on how to allocate this money, with dueling perspectives heard on the House Floor Thursday.
In the end, DFL priorities won out, and HF2497 was passed, as amended, on a 70-60 party-line vote. The 327-page bill now heads to the Senate.
Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL-Hopkins), the bill sponsor, argues this infusion of state dollars represents an historic investment in Minnesota schools after 20 years of underfunding.
“Our proposal stabilizes school funding, supports the health and well-being of our students, works on equity and innovation in our schools, increases career pathways and connections with our local communities, as well as building up and diversifying our workforce,” she said.
Republicans fiercely disagree, laying out their case against the bill during a pre-session press conference.
“The DFL bill focuses on mandates, micromanaging our schools, restricting student discipline, … and closing pathways to licensing, leaving our schools with fewer teachers,” said Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska).
He advocated for a delete-all amendment unsuccessfully offered by Rep. Ron Kresha (R-Little Falls), which would “provide funding and flexibility, local control, innovation, and a focus on literacy.”
This 45-page proposal spurred an impassioned floor debate but ultimately failed along party lines. Among its key provisions, the amendment would have:
But this educational plan was not to be. Instead, the House handed a diploma to the bill brought forth to the chamber, which includes the following major appropriations:
The bill would also make numerous smaller scale appropriations, such as:
[MORE: Download the spreadsheet; change items]
The bill incorporates the omnibus education policy bill, which would alter the educational landscape in the following noteworthy ways:
Finally, the unemployment insurance system would be expanded to include hourly school workers, such as bus drivers and cooks, allowing them to collect this benefit during the summer break.
In addition to Kresha’s delete-all amendment, Republicans offered another 10 amendments, touching on hot-button issues such as literacy, nonexclusionary discipline reforms, and ethnic studies. However, only two of these amendments were adopted: clarifying language around the civics graduation requirement and disciplinary measures for students suspended for violent conduct.
One rejected amendment generated a prolonged debate about religious freedom.
Offered by Rep. Jim Nash (R-Waconia), it would have struck language from the bill to prohibit postsecondary schools participating in the postsecondary enrollment option program from requiring applicants submit a faith statement.
Republicans argue this provision is prejudiced against faith-based higher education institutions; DFLers contend the current state of affairs is discriminatory towards high school students applying to these programs.