We know a quality school system plays a critical role in a state's economic success, and making sure that all Minnesota students get a top education should remain a priority. Minnesota cannot reach that goal until it addresses serious achievement disparities that have plagued the state for years.
The House and Senate plans to meet those goals through the omnibus education bills that are now moving through the Legislature. Both bills make significant investments in our children in the next biennium. The House (House File 630) increases funding for E-12 education by $550 million in FY 2014-15, while the Senate (Senate File 453) increases funding by $486 million.
The Senate omnibus bill follows the Governor's recommendation to increase funding for schools through the basic student formula by $52 per pupil, while the House omnibus bill makes a much bigger investment - an increase of $209 per pupil over the biennium. Both bodies provide additional equity aid to help school districts that are unable to pass local school referendums.
A key component of reducing disparities is getting children on the right path from the beginning. The House and Senate bills propose improvements to early educational opportunities:
- Both support funding full-day kindergarten for all children starting in FY 2015.
- Both fund early learning scholarships so high-needs children ages 3 to 5 can attend high-quality child care and early childhood programs. The Senate follows the Governor's recommendation to increase funding for these scholarships by $44 million for the biennium, while the House increases funding by $50 million.
- The House provides additional funding for Head Start to offset funding lost due to federal sequestration.
The E-12 education omnibus bills also increase investments to support children as they move through school:
- The House and Senate both provide funding for the Minnesota Math Corps to help 4th- to 8th-grade students meet state standards. The Senate also increases funding for the Minnesota Reading Corps.
- The House funds Regional Centers of Excellence to help schools erase academic achievement gaps and reach 100 percent high school graduation rates by 2027.
The House and Senate also support lifelong learning opportunities by increasing funding for Adult Basic Education to help Minnesotans gain basic skills in math, reading, writing and speaking.
Even though the Governor recommended a $127 million increase for special education, the House provides no additional funding, and the Senate provides only a small increase.
There are two other notable proposals. The Senate E-12 education omnibus bill includes $150 million to reduce school property taxes. The House fully repays the school funding shift in FY 2014.
The House passed its omnibus bill Tuesday evening, and the Senate is taking up the bill on the floor today.