Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Soup's On!

In the spirit of my earlier post today, we have been served our soup.  Some will say it's a delicious potage with an alluring aroma.  Others will say it's pretty thin broth.  What folks think right at this moment doesn't matter a whole lot, because this is what the Legislature has constructed and we now wait upon the Governor's response.

It is unclear what the Legislature's approach will be at this point.  Earlier in the week, it appeared that the Legislature would come together with agreements on the tax and budget bills by today (and for the most part, they have), pass them to the Governor, and await his likely veto.  I don't know how many of you follow the growing deep stats movement in baseball, but there is now a measurement labelled exit velocity, which measures the speed of the ball off the bat.  From all indications, if the Legislature pitched these bills to the Governor, the exit velocity on the veto would approach the speed of light.  Today, it appears the Legislature is trying to engage the Governor in serious budget talks before they pass the bills in hopes of striking a grand bargain that will bring the 2017 regular session to a close by its constitutionally-mandated adjournment date of 11:59:59.99 PM on Monday, March 22, and eliminate the need for a special session.

Here are the highlights (or lowlights depending on your vantage point) of the bill:

  • $303 million overall budget target, which is slightly above the Senate's $300 million budget target and the House's target in the $280 million range.
  • 1.5% increase in the basic formula in each year of the biennium.  Amounts are $6,158 per pupil unit for 2017-18 and $6,249 per pupil unit for 2018-19.
  • Repeal of Governor's voluntary pre-kindergarten program.  Current participants are held harmless permanently with an increase in the school readiness formula attributable to their district to replace loss of revenue due to drop in pupil unit numbers.
  • $19 million increase in early childhood scholarship program.
  • Closing of Perpich Center for Arts Education.
  • $4.9 million biennial cut to the Minnesota Department of Education.
  • $3 million cut in ACT reimbursement program.
  • Grants, grants, grants, including:

  1. $250,000 for summer agricultural education programs.
  2. $500,000 for Rock 'n' Read.
  3. $500,000 ($250,000 per year) for AP/IB STEM programs.
  4. $750,000 for Alternative Teacher Preparation.
  5. $3 million for Rural Career and Technical Education Pilot.
  6. $1 million for the Sanneh Foundation.
  7. $4.9 million for mental health grants to the intermediate districts.
  8. $1.1 million for the parent-child home visiting program.
  9. $500,000 for teacher shortage loan forgiveness.
  10. $960,000 for the expansion of education partnerships.
And more.

More important than what is in the bill is what is missing from the Governor's budget recommendations.  I've already talked about the repeal of the voluntary pre-kindergarten program, but the Governor was asking for an increase of nearly $160 million in the program.

Other Governor's initiatives not pursued include:

  • A one-half percentage point difference in the Governor's recommendation for the basic formula increase and what the Legislature is proposing.
  • $69 million to school districts to help rectify the shortfall in the Teachers Retirement Association pension fund.
  • The $40 million the Governor had added to special education formula.

Here is the link to the House committee page that contains the conference committee report and the spreadsheets associated with the bill.  House Education Funding Committee Page.  The links to the documents are found on the Upcoming Meetings section on the far right column of the page.

Where things go from here is anyone's guess.  Much will depend on if and when the Governor becomes directly involved in the budget negotiations.  That could happen as early as tomorrow.  I will let everyone know as soon as I do.

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