St Paul – The Minnesota House of Representatives passed the Omnibus E-12 Education Finance and Policy Bill tonight with bipartisan support on a vote of 83 to 50. State Representative Jay McNamar (DFL – Elbow Lake) voted in favor of the legislation. The bill sets the ambitious goal of closing the achievement gap, reaching the nation’s highest high school graduation rate, 100 percent literacy by third grade, and 100 percent career and college readiness by graduation — all by 2027.
The Omnibus E-12 Education Finance and Policy Bill fully funds all-day, every day kindergarten and investing $50 million in early learning childhood scholarships. All-day K and early childhood education are proven tools to improve test scores, close the achievement gap, and prepare students for future academic success.
In addition to increased funding for kindergarten and early childhood, the bill also increases the basic funding formula for K-12 schools by four percent over the biennium, an increase of over $315 million, or $209 per pupil.
“As a retired teacher, I know how tough it can be when schools don’t get the support they need,” said Rep. McNamar. “And frankly, these past few years the Legislature has not done a good job of supporting our schools. This year, we’re changing that. We want education to be a top priority and these investments prove that.”
Under the House DFL Education Budget, the West Central Area School District would receive an increase of $94,454, or $132 per-pupil in fiscal year 2014 (1.3 percent) and an increase of over $361,987 or $483 per-pupil in fiscal year 2015 (4.8 percent). The Morris Area School District would receive a formula increase of $130,218 or $132 per-pupil (1.5 percent) in fiscal year 2014 and an increase of $406,882, or $414 per-pupil in fiscal year 2015 (4.5 percent). The Breckenridge School District would receive an increase of $83,086, or $119 per-pupil in fiscal year 2014 (1.3 percent), and an increase of $285,921, or $414 per-pupil in fiscal year 2015 (4.5 percent). The Clinton Graceville Beardsley School District would receive an increase of $53,914, or $151 per-pupil in fiscal year 2014 (1.4 percent), and an increase of $180,008, or $517 per-pupil in fiscal year 2015 (4.7 percent).
The new investments in this education bill mark a sharp difference from the education bills of the past decade. Minnesota has been trapped in a cycle of deficits. And each time, schools, our kids, and our students paid the price. The state has slipped from the top 10 in funding to 22nd. Perhaps most alarming, Minnesota is now ranked 47th in the country in terms of classroom sizes.
The Omnibus E-12 Education Finance and Policy Bill also contains a new strategy to close the revenue equity gap and reduce property taxes. The bill enhances the equity formula guaranteeing all districts at least $300 per student of equity and referendum revenue, and raises and indexes operating referendum levy equalization factors to reduce property taxes.
As part of building the world’s best workforce, the Omnibus E-12 Education Finance and Policy Bill would implement several necessary reforms. Schools will be required to develop strategic plans for student achievement and update the public on their status each year. The state will utilize the Minnesota Department of Education’s Regional Centers of Excellence to provide assistance and work with schools to reach their goals.
A new student assessment system will be implemented that ensures students stay on the path to being career and college ready, and innovation grants that promote new ways to increase student achievement will be available to schools.
Tomorrow, the House will take up the House Tax Bill, which includes the final piece of the House DFL education plan. The tax bill will include a provision to pay back the $850 million owed to Minnesota schools with a temporary surcharge on the wealthiest 0.5% of Minnesotans (joint filers earning more than $500,000 per year). In 2011, the Republican-led legislature enacted record borrowing from Minnesota schools.
Throughout the legislative session, Rep. McNamar encourages all constituents to contact him directly with any questions, comments, or concerns on any legislative issue. Rep. McNamar can be reached by phone at (651) 296-4929 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .