Joint Budget Targets Released, $2.2B for K-12

In a historic move, the DFL majority leaders and Governor Walz released joint budget targets on March 21. Joint budget targets are the unicorn of a legislative budget session, usually drug out and not emerging until the bitter end, late May or sometimes late June. It’s beyond rare, if it’s ever happened, to see joint targets between the House, Senate, and Governor at this point of the process. House and Senate budget chairs are always anxious for targets, chomping at the bit, so they can move forward with omnibus bills, and leadership delivered. With just over a week left before Easter/Passover break, the budget committees are scrambling to assemble their omnibus bills.

Target $2.2B for K-12

The joint target for K-12 Education is $2.214 billion dollars over the next two years, and the budget deal allows spending to grow to $3.3 billion in the tails budget or fiscal years 26-27. One dilemma, the proposed expansion of Unemployment Insurance to non-licensed staff, promised to be paid for by the state, needs to come out of the K-12 target. Fiscal noted at $139 million/year, that means $278 million comes off the top of next biennium’s $2.2B, leaving $1.936 billion. That’s still a lot of money, of course, however, stacking it up against 5&5 on the formula ($1.076B) and a Special Education Cross Subsidy buy-down of 47.3% (Walz’s proposal at $769M) would leave $91 million and there are many additional competing priorities.

During the leadership press conference on joint targets, the Governor reiterated his position on 4&2 on the formula and his demand that the formula be indexed to a CPI inflator, within certain parameters. House Speaker Melissa Hortman concurred with the addition of a CPI inflator as a must-have for the final K-12 bill.

In addition to the K-12 target, there’s another $300 million in one-time funding for early childhood programs, but it is unclear if this is marked for birth-3 scholarships or an expansion of VPK.

The many questions we have about the House and Senate bills will be answered later today or tomorrow as the two bodies make their proposals public. The biggest question is what the major differences are.

The Read Act

Last week in House Education Finance, they considered HF629 (Edelson), the “Read Act”, which would require schools to use approved literacy curriculum, and literacy specialists. The bill includes a $30 million appropriation in 2024 for literacy grants to school districts to pay for literacy curriculum, books, or other expenses related to the bill requirements. Also included is a $40 million appropriation in both 2024 and 2025 for professional development to train teachers on these new literacy requirements. The committee also considered several bills proposing additional graduation requirements including personal finance, civics, and computer science.

This week in Education Committees

Senate Education Finance

Senate Education Finance has hearings scheduled this week but they have not posted agendas. The committee will likely start discussing the Senate Education Omnibus bill SF2684 (Kunesh).

Senate Education Policy

Senate Education Policy currently has no hearings scheduled for this week.

House Education Policy

House Education Policy currently has no hearings scheduled for this week.

House Education Finance

House Education Finance will take up the House Education Omnibus bill, HF2497 (Youakim). On Tuesday they will walkthrough the bill, on Wednesday they will take public testimony, and on Thursday the committee will offer amendments and discuss the bill. The committee may come back on Friday if they need more time for discussion and mark up.