It’s deadline week for the major tax and appropriations bills to pass out of their respective committees. Below is a brief synopsis of the major educaiton and tax bills highlighting major provisions contained in them.
I will start with the House omnibus tax bill–HF 3669. Article 4, Sections 1 and 2 are education-related initiaties that are supported by SEE and a broad range of other education organizations. Section 1 would make all cooperative facilities eligible to receive long term facilities maintenance revenue. This would correct a long-time inequity that has existed between some cooperative units and others. Section 2 is a variation on the increased equalization that was contained in HF 3224. HF 3224 provided equalization across-the-board to the local option revenue, the operating referendum, and the debt service levy. HF 3669 went beyond the proposed equalizing factor in HF 3224 to provide greater relief on that one aid/levy revenue stream, but set aside any progress toward bringing greater equalization on the voter-approved operating and debt service levies. The House action makes a greater number of districts eligible for some measure of property tax relief and increases the rate of equalization for eligible districts. It also ties the local option revenue equalizing factor to growth in the statewide average referendum market value per pupil so that the aid/levy balance will remain the same for districts over time. It is disappointing that the bill does not tackle the voter-approved levies because those are the programs where property wealth differences are creating funding disparities, but there may be opportunities to make progress on those programs as the session continues. At a time when there is an historic budget surplus and a desire to cut taxes, bringing significant and lasting property tax relief on education-related levies would seem to be something that would generate broad support. I am gratified that the House Tax Committee and Property Tax Division tackled this issue aggressively during the session and I’m hopeful that the Senate will be amenable to making progress in this area as the final tax bill takes shape. There are strong advocates for equalization in key leadership positions in the Senate and as in the words of the immortal sage Yogi Berra “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”
The Senate education bill–SF 4113–is the most focused (read “shortest”) omnibus education funding and policy bill that I’ve seen in my 30-plus years on the beat. It comes in at nine pages and contains only one major appropriation, a $30 million commitment to the LETRS (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling). There is also a $700,000 appropriation for the Regional Centers of Excellence to assist in implementing the appropriation. Senate Education Finance and Policy Chair Senator Roger Chamberlain has an extremely strong interest in promoting literacy, especially early literacy, and that is the crux of this bill. It has been the Senate majority’s overall approach to this session that even with the historic budget surplus both in terms of cash-on-hand and the projected surplus in future biennia, it is not a funding year and that the state budget was set last year, meaning that no major appropriation bills should be constructed in 2022. This is going to produce a clash between the House and Senate over the next six weeks, as the House is assembling a number of very comprehensive funding bills as though it were a funding session.
The House omnibus education bill–HF4300– proposes $1.2 billion in new education spending and is vastly different than the Senate’s bill (understatement). Unlike the Governor’s proposal that put money on the general education basic formula (along with a variety of other initiatves), the House bill focuses on reducing the special education and English Learner funding cross-subsidies. The bill also provides funding for student support personnel. Here is a list of the major funding initiatves:
- $422 million in FY 23, $491 million in FY 24, and $507 million in FY 25 to reduce the special education cross-subsidy.
- $76 million in FY 23, $83 million in FY 24, and $119 million in FY 25 to reduce the English Learner cross-subsidy.
- $67 million in FY 23, $96 million in FY 24, and $98 million in FY 25 to expand the Voluntary Pre-Kindergartern program.
- $96 miilion in FY 23, $106 million in FY 24, and $106 million in FY 25 to hire more student support personnel.
- $21 million in FY 23, $23 million in FY 24, and $23 million in FY 25 to help implement Multi-Tiered Systems of Support.
- $4.8 million in FY 23, $4.8 million in FY 24, and $4.8 million in FY 25 to implement the Governor’s BOLD literacy plan.
- $18 miillion in FY 23, $21 million in FY 24, and $22 million in FY 25 to pay for additional teacher prep time for special education teachers to complete due process paperwork.
- There is a wide variety of other funding programs and I have provided a link to the change items in the budget proposal here. The new funding initiatives are in italics. HF 4300 Budget Change Items. The table is a little difficult to read as the Governor’s proposal is listed in the first set of columns reading from left to right with the second half of the page outlining the House’s initiatives and the funding attached to each of those initiatives.
- The bill also contains a number of policy initiatves related to non-exclusionary discipline, curricular changes relating to ethnic studies, American Indian Education, and personal finance. The bill summary can be found by following this link: HF 4300 Bill Summary.
To say the two bodies are on a collision course overstates matters considerably. In a year with an unprecedented budget surplus (both in the immediate and foreseeable future in the near term) and heightened political tension, it isn’t a surprise that process is a bit murkier than in a less complicated year. There’s a lot to digest in terms of both tax policy and spending policy and while I don’t believe the next six weeks will be smooth sailing, I do believe that positive things can happen. I will keep you posted as things move forward.