The House and Senate Education Committees passed their education finance bills on schedule last week. They neatly bracket the Governor’s target of $60.77 million. The Senate’s budget tops $100.5 million, while the House spends $52 million.
Both bodies assume that several districts with Capital loans will repay their loans thus providing the state with an infusion of $52 million. Even if that doesn’t fully materialize, the state has $2.15 billion in the bank to pay the commitments.
Both bodies prioritized funding for technology and teacher recruitment, although in different ways:
- The House adds $7 million to develop off campus Wi-Fi hot spots, to put Wi-Fi on busses for school districts with transportation sparsity and $2 million for technology infrastructure capacity.
- The Senate adds $10.1 million to Operating Capital at $10.88 per APU statewide.
- The Senate targets $85 million for broadband development and the House provides $28 million. These are not in the education committees. Learn more about the broadband expansion.
- The House adds $9 million, including $1.2 million to loan forgiveness, $1 million to grants to low income student teachers in high need disciplines and high need regions of the state, $1.5 million in “grow your own” grant to districts and collaboratives, and $385,000 to Southwest Minnesota State University so para-professionals can become a licensed teacher while continuing to work.
- The Senate adds $5.5 million, including $2 million in Para to Teacher grants, $2 million to low income student teachers, and $1 million for AMI teacher candidates.
Of most interest to rural schools is the $7.7 million House proposal to extend statewide the 25 percent increase in equity aid, which the metro districts received last year. For most rural districts this will result in a $23 per APU funding increase. For details on all the funding and policy proposals as amended, see MREA’s side-by-side of the proposals.
MREA Supported Initiatives
A number of MREA supported initiatives are in one or the other omnibus bill:
- Indexing the current debt service equalization formula
- Enhancing the debt service equalization for districts which consolidate after July 1, 2016
- $385,000 SMSU Para-to-Teacher program
- $100,000 for Online Early Learning teacher preparation (in Senate Higher Ed Omnibus)
- $10 million for one-time Teacher Development & Evaluation (TDE) for non-Qcomp districts
- $9 million to lift the QComp cap
- $1.5 million for staff development for Level 4 staff in Intermediates, coops and Ed Districts
- $18 million for voluntary 350 hour four year old Pre-K and a fairly allocated pot of money for rural districts
- $350,000 for CTE career office and advisory committee in SW/WC Service Coop
- $6 million for staff development for Level 4 staff in Intermediates, coops and Education Districts
- $3 million for a continuing education program provided by Lakes County Service Coop and Minnesota State University Moorhead for secondary teacher to obtain 18 graduate credits in their discipline and qualify to continue teaching concurrent enrollment classes with the newly imposed Higher Learning Commission (HLC) rules.
- $900,000 northwest mobile manufacturing labs
- $5 million School Linked Mental Health Grants
For details on all the funding and policy proposals as amended, see MREA’s side-by-side of the proposals.