Schools for Equity in Education

– Legislative Update

It will be a short week ahead with the Legislature breaking on Thursday and returning a week from this Tuesday due to the scheduled Easter break and things will be happening quickly once they reconvene.  Both the House and Senate omnibus education policy bills are out of their respective committees and will be hitting the floor at some point in early April.  I have posted both of the bills as introduced, but there have been several amendments added to the bills and I will post the updated bills on the blog when they are reported to the floor with the amendments incorporated into the original text.  Here again are the bills as introduced:

HF 3782

SF 3567

The Senate hearing on the bill was especially interesting as a number of amendments were offered by the Republicans that did not pass but did generate a considerable amount of debate.  Several of the amendments addressed subjects not in the bill and would probably have been more appropriately offered in the Education Finance Committee.  I would not be surprised if these same amendments are offered when the bill hits the Senate floor.

The big news this week (and hold on to your hats because this moves fast) was the release of the Governor’s supplemental budget.  Given the uncertainty for the next biennium that was evident in the February budget forecast, the Governor proposed a very slim budget with next-to-nothing for K-12 education.  Given the size of the investment in K-12 education last year and the competition between committees for resources in the wake of those increases, it was hardly surprising that this year’s target was rather limited.  That said, to have it come in barely in positive spending territory took me off guard, especially given the on-going needs for funding for the READ Act.

The Governor’s budget language will be introduced this week as in addition to several funding—though limited—initiatives there are language changes clarifying how provisions passed last session and, in some instances, appear to provide greater flexibility.  The biggest education-related expenditure in the Governor’s supplemental budget is not even going to school districts.  It is instead a one-time TRA pension contribution holiday for Minnesota teachers.

Here is a link to the Governor’s supplemental budget proposal: Governor’s Supplemental Budget

But, as famous radio broadcaster Paul Harvey used to intone, “And now. The rest of the story.”  As was the case last session, the Governor and the Legislature have agreed to global funding targets for each budget area prior to the deliberations that will develop the final version of the omnibus education funding bills.  That pattern was unprecedented before last session (and when government is divided between the political parties it would never happen) but it is being repeated this session.  That should make things move quite quickly once the Legislature comes back to work the first week of April.

The agreed-upon budget targets come in at $477 million, which is more than twice the $199 million that the Governor unveiled in his supplemental budget last Monday.  The target for K-12 education is $43 million with an additional budget commitment in this area for the next biennium of $18 million.  This means that not all the money will be one-time money.  There is likely to be a healthy infusion of money into the READ Act and it appears one of the top priorities for this investment will be some level of stipends for teachers who are participating in professional development programs to promote evidence-based reading practices.  I have yet to find an area-by-area break-down of the agreement but will post one as soon as I do.

Just because there is an agreement on the overall funding levels for the session does not mean that the Legislature is not going to hear a variety of bills as they construct their final omnibus bills.  In the area of education, they have already heard bills that far exceed the budget agreement and so they can probably be discounted.  At the same time, many of these bills could help lay the groundwork for discussions that will take place when the next biennial budget is set during the 2025 session.  One bill of interest that will be heard this week is HF 4986.  The bill, authored by House Property Tax Subcommittee Chair Dave Lislegard, would adjust the property tax burden for districts with high concentrations of seasonal/recreational property.  While this approach is not comprehensive, it does address the unique needs of districts where this is the case and is another angle when seeking to infuse more property tax fairness into Minnesota’s education funding system.

I will be reporting on this week’s legislative hearings as the action unfolds.  As always, questions and comments are welcome at or 612-220-7459.


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