The Minnesota House and Senate last week advanced their supplemental spending proposals for E-12 education as well as a series of policy changes. The proposals vary between the two bodies and what Gov. Mark Dayton would like.

MREA developed a side-by-side comparison of each of the key issues impacting schools. View the side-by-side.

Lawmakers now will need to hash out the differences to bring forth a single proposal for the Legislature to vote on and, upon approval, the Governor to sign.

Here’s a look at the two spending plans and other issues at play:

Senate Plan

In an 11-hour marathon floor session, the Senate passed a 600-page omnibus supplemental budget bill that encompasses all of state government.

The focus of debate on the E-12 portion of the bill was around the “academic balance” proposal that E-12 Chair Carla Nelson advanced this session. It’s a controversial proposal that Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius has flagged as a major problem with the Senate’s bill, in addition to the lack of ongoing funding for school safety needs.

The Senate passed the bill on a party line, with the bare minimum of the 34 votes needed.

House Plan

The House merged the Education Finance and the Higher Education Finance bills together for their floor debate. Aside from a few testy amendments and complaints about the lack of special education funding, Chair Jenifer Loon secured a solid 94-29, bi-partisan vote for her bill.

The House bill includes a more robust school safety package with ongoing funding for school districts and their cooperative programs. It also contains a significant amount of policy, with many of the originally proposed mandates scaled back. Still, it would be preferred to see a “clean” school safety bill emerge without new education policy in this non-budget session.

What’s Next?

Lawmakers now have three weeks to negotiate a deal with Governor Mark Dayton who is demanding that the GOP majorities first come to terms with themselves on their supplemental budget plans. That will be difficult as the Senate spends about half of what the House does in the next fiscal year and much less in the tails.

The House still needs to move the pension bill forward, which MREA is told will happen. However, it’s likely that it will be a bargaining chip in the last weekend of session.

The end of session chess game is complicated by federal tax conformity and a hoped for bonding bill. The House plans to spend $25 million on school facility safety in their bonding bill.

There also is a problematic proposal that could impact the state’s general fund and the future legislature’s ability to pay for education. Transportation advocates are hoping to pass a bill that will place a constitutional question on the ballot to dedicate auto part sales taxes to roads and bridges.

MREA testified against this proposal in the House and Senate. Schools will need to step up their advocacy on this issue. Learn more.