Governor Dayton today officially vetoed the E-12 education bill HF844.

He was presented with all the final budget bills at 6pm on Wednesday, May 20. The state’s constitution gave him three days after presentment to either sign, veto, or let the bills become law without his signature.

What’s in the bill? View the issues that matter to you.

Governor to Push for More Pre-K

The Governor and Commissioner Cassellius are visiting an Apple Valley elementary school today to talk about the importance of pre-K. It’s the first of what could be many visits around the state to campaign for pre-K funding in some shape and form. In the final hours of the legislative session this past Monday the Governor was willing to back away from a half-day, universal program in exchange for more money on the basic formula and school readiness dollars. On Tuesday he said everything is on the table for E-12 since there was no deal reached on Monday.

House to Resume Where Left Off

By contrast, Speaker Kurt Daudt said he expects to pick up where the House left off on Monday. We’re told that where they left off was a potential agreement on another $125 million in E-12 funding for a variety of initiatives including:

  • “2&2” on the formula instead of “1.5&2”
  • Full funding of the Head Start waiting list
  • Another $55 million in School Readiness dollars in addition to the $30 million in the current bill
  • Funding for Minneapolis and St. Paul early learning, parent education initiatives
  • A better formula for Indian Education and BIE schools

Process for Special Session

The Governor and Speaker Daudt are meeting next Tuesday after everyone has had a chance to clear their heads a bit. They have to sort through logistical planning of when and where to hold a special session (which constitutionally must be held in St. Paul) in addition to the E-12 bill and any other legislation that was vetoed or needs amendment.

For the most part, special sessions typically are leadership-heavy, behind-the-scenes negotiations without any formal process leading up to “the deal.” Once the four caucus leaders have agreed on the deal and physically signed off on it, the Governor will call them to order in a half-day session to process the new legislation.

In the meantime, the rest of us scurry around trying to find tidbits of information. From time to time, we’re able to get messages through to those who might be talking to leadership. We may be asked for opinions on occasion. Assuming talks remain cordial, we won’t know much. If talks break down, we’ll fall into a period of dueling news conferences with each of them blaming each other for a lack of progress. Let’s hope that’s not the case and that they do resolve their differences by early June, as each leader has said is the goal.

Influencing the Pre-K Discussion

For those paying close attention to the pre-K discussion, this is a very nuanced policy debate that has been fought too long at the rhetorical level. The solution to this will hinge on decisions around the following policy considerations:

  • Should pre-K staff funded with state dollars be licensed? If so, on what timeline?
  • Should the state require a minimum number of hours/days served, 9 months or year-long in order to receive pre-K/School Readiness funds?
  • Should districts be allowed to establish fee schedules for middle- and upper-income families? What would this threshold be? 185% of federal poverty, 250%?
  • Should the law require schools to contract with community providers who meet quality standards?
  • How will facility space be financed?
  • Who will provide transportation?

The simplest approach for now would be to add significant funding to School Readiness, study these issues over the interim, and then come back in 2016 with a well-thought-out approach. However, that’s not likely to be satisfactory to the administration; they will push for more quality components in the School Readiness statue should that be the statute of choice for pre-K expansion.

View the memo from MDE outlining the current School Readiness components and the additional components the feds say are needed to ensure a quality system

Our best advice to you right now is to try to have a thoughtful conversation with your own legislators about what you’re currently doing in pre-K and what you would like to see happen. This is your best chance at this point to influence the end result.