On Friday, a new and improved $525 million E-12 bill emerged for approval during an upcoming special session. This bill includes 2&2 on the formula, more money in existing early learning programs like scholarships and school readiness and a major expansion of American Indian Education funding. Statewide access to an equalized levy for deferred maintenance funding stayed in the final bill. English Language Learning reimbursements were expanded from six years to seven years in the final bill. Overall the funding included in the special session bill makes the wait for final passage worth it. View the details of the new E-12 bill.
The Details and Data
What happened to get us to here?
The day after the regular session adjourned Governor Mark Dayton held a press conference showing his pre-written veto letter of HF 844 or the legislature’s conference report on E-12, which spent $400 million. Dayton had been holding out for a version of universal pre-school, preferable full day, but he said he would settle for a half day program.
He told the press that he was willing to walk away from this at the last minute for an additional $125 million in E-12 spending on a variety of initiatives, including additional money on the formula to get to 2&2. When asked by reporters about where they should start on the E-12 bill the Governor indicated that he felt everything should be back on the table.
The following day House Speaker Kurt Daudt held a press conference to react to the news that the Governor was following through with his promise to veto the $400 million E-12 bill the legislature approved. He was cordial in his comments about the Governor, but noted that he believed they should start on the E-12 bill where they left off, meaning use the existing $400 million bill and add to it. He basically said they would support an additional $125 million for E-12, but not one of the Governor’s versions of universal pre-school.
Conservative Policy Re-emerges
Memorial Weekend came and went and it appears at times that the Governor might take his case for universal preschool on a statewide tour. However, House GOP offers on the E-12 bill started to include some conservative policy measures (LIFO and Transgender bathrooms) the Governor and DFLers had successfully battled this session.
Most assume these GOP offers were meant to get Dayton off the preschool tour and back to where they were the last night of the regular session – spending an additional $125 million and dropping universal preschool. As May turned into June Dayton acquiesced to the legislature’s position that the state wasn’t ready for a universal preschool program. Instead, Dayton and Daudt (and many others) rolled up their shirt sleeves and negotiated how to spend the additional $125 million in E-12.
The result of their negotiations was released last Friday.
While Governor Dayton backed away from universal preschool at this time he has promised to be right back at it next time around. He wants his legacy piece to center around passage of All Day Kindergarten and universal access to high quality preschool.
Schools and community providers of pre-K need to figure out a way to work together to try and figure out an appropriate pathway forward on early learning. Without taking sides or placing blame, the 2015 education battle over this issue has left some scars and smoldering bridges to repair. It doesn’t bode well when the adults responsible for the education of children are at such odds. We all have our work cut out for us.