With the global targets set for both the House and Senate finance committees, there weren’t a lot of surprises when the bills were released in the middle of last week. A side-by-side comparison of the major funding initiatives is posted on the SEE websit, pointings out the differences between the bills, but I will do a brief summary here.
Both bills call for a 4% increase in the general education basic formula for next year, but the routes depart in the next year. The House goes with the Governor’s 2% increase for the 2024-25 school year with increases in the basic formula beyond that tied to the rate of inflation. The Senate proposes a 5% basic formula increase for the 2024-25 school year, but does not tie the formula to the inflation rate thereafter. This “now or later” question will likely be one of the more contested discussions that takes place in the upcoming conference committee.
The House also tacks with the Governor on the special-education cross-subsidy, reducing it by 47.8 percent going forward. The Senate does less in this biennium to reduce the cross-subsidy, but goes beyond the Governor and the House in the next biennium. Both the House and Senate go beyond the Governor’s budget recommendations relating to the English Learner formula cross-subsidy, with the House’s goal of eliminating it entirely by the end of the next biennium and the Senate doing a bit less at an 80% reduction.
There are other areas of near agreement. Both sides make the current targeted voluntary pre-Kindergarten sites permanent and the House and Governor seek to expand the program. All sides put more money into hiring more student support personnel (school social workers, school psychologists, guidance counselors, school nurses, and chemical dependency counselors) with the House investing the most. Similarly, the House puts more money into literacy efforts, but all three players have put substantial dollars into programs that will improve students’ reading skills with a goal of having all students reading at grade level by the end of third grade.
The House has several provisions—increase in transportation sparsity, money for additional prep time for special education teachers, and money for a program to create an enhanced pipeline for special education teachers—and it will be interesting to see how that all balances out during negotiations.
The Legislature will be taking a break for the religious holidays after Tuesday and will reassemble on Tuesday, April 11. I would expect that week to be extremely busy with all of the major funding bills continuing through the House Ways and Means Committee for House bills and the Senate Finance Committee for Senate bills. The week of April 17 is when the bills will likely be hitting the floor and getting ready for some long floor sessions featuring a stem-winding speech or two. It used to be that the committee hearings would be a slog with a seemingly-unending succession of amendments with that process repeated on the House and Senate floors. For the past few years, the minority party has saved its amendments and sharpest discussion for when the bill is on the floor, which saves a lot of time while still allowing the minority caucus to air their viewpoints on a larger stage.
Now that we are taking a breather, I am planning on getting something scheduled this Wednesday, for a Lunch with Brad so I can field (and hopefully answer) your questions. One of the keys from here on out is for local school boards and district administrations to talk with their legislators about provisions in the bills that work for them and the ones that do not. So stay tuned and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or comments you might have.
Here are the district by distrirct runs from the Senate and House Omnibus bills for the 23-24 and 24-25 years.