House, Senate strive for agreement on K-12 education budget

/ 9 May 2013 / eunice

Sarah Lemagie, Session Daily, May 9, 2013 – The House and Senate have kicked off formal negotiations to resolve the differences in their respective plans for funding Minnesota schools.

A conference committee charged with producing one omnibus K-12 education bill spent its first meeting on Thursday comparing the versions passed by each body. The House version, HF630, is sponsored by Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth); the Senate bill, SF453, is sponsored by Sen. Chuck Wiger (DFL-Maplewood).

Both proposals would increase General Fund spending on education over the next two years – the House by $550 million and the Senate by $487 million. Both call for big new investments in all-day kindergarten and early learning scholarships. Both have similar plans to revamp school integration aid and redesign statewide testing.

But there are big differences, too. More than half of the new money in the House’s K-12 funding bill would go toward basic classroom spending, with increases of 2 percent on that funding formula in each of the next two years. The Senate plan calls for an increase of 1 percent in 2014.

The Senate puts more emphasis on property tax relief, reducing school levies by $150 million in its education bill and another $75 million in its tax plan.

Another crucial difference that’s not in the education bills: Unlike the Senate, the House has called for spending $854 million in its tax plan to pay back “shifted” aid that lawmakers previously borrowed from schools to balance the state budget.

By law, the Legislature must adjourn by May 20, giving lawmakers less than two weeks to reach an agreement.