Minnesota should dole out $2.2 billion in new funding for K-12 education.
On this, the House and Senate are in agreement. How to spend those billions – and what policy changes should go along with those dollars? Those will take some time to sort out.
That’s the upshot from the first meeting of the conference committee on HF2497/SF2684, the omnibus education finance bill.
No matter what is ultimately decided, Gov. Tim Walz is sure to be happy. This was made clear in the opening remarks of Education Commissioner Willie Jett.
“The bills provide the funding for the fundamental building blocks of school finance, so schools have the resources to provide an excellent teaching and learning environment to all students,” said Jett. He also noted the bills contain many policy changes the department has long sought to implement but couldn’t “due to political division for almost a decade.”
While complimenting both chambers, Jett took a side in one major funding dispute, urging conferees to index future basic formula increases to inflation starting with the 2026-27 biennium, as found in the House proposal.
Indeed, the basic formula is the source of most of the appropriations discrepancies. While both chambers recommend a formula increase of 4% in fiscal year 2024, the Senate calls for a 5% jump in fiscal year 2025. The House only opts for a 2% increase that year, leaving space for more specific line-item appropriations in the coming biennium.
[MORE: View side-by-side summary, change items]
Substantial funding differences can also be found in special education, English language learning, and literacy:
Big-ticket appropriations found on the House side but nonexistent in the other chamber include:
Minor House appropriations that merit a goose egg on the Senate side include money for the CTE consortium, computer science education, ethnic studies, nonexclusionary discipline training, the Sanneh Foundation, gender-neutral bathroom construction, and opiate antagonists.
Meanwhile, the Senate budget calls for two considerable line items wholly absent on the House side: $59.3 million in school library aid and $56.1 million for a new category of funding called ‘general education disparity aid,’ to be distributed to property poor schools ranking in the bottom 20% of per pupil funding.
Furthermore, significant daylight can be seen in the following categories: the Department of Education; student support personnel aid and workforce development; full-service community school grants; Grow Your Own teacher grants; afterschool programming; and museums and education centers. The House favors the former three items, while the Senate sends more dollars to the latter three.
Consensus (or near-agreement) can be found in the following areas:
Lastly, both chambers concur on the need to permanently install 4,000 pre-kindergarten seats at risk of disappearing. However, the House would fund an additional 5,200 seats starting in fiscal year 2025.
Conferees are already aligned on numerous policy issues, such as:
Agreement can also be found in the majority of the discipline reforms and the banning of American Indian mascots. However, the Senate language utilizes different effective dates for the former and provides a more expansive exemption application process for the latter.
In contrast, negotiations will be necessary to determine if:
Finally, while the House explicitly prohibits postsecondary schools participating in the postsecondary enrollment option program from requiring a faith statement from applicants, the Senate only requires that “an eligible institution must be in compliance with relevant law and judicial decisions.”