As the state’s school districts craft their 2017-18 budgets, negotiations are set to begin soon at the State Capitol on a two-year school funding package that could give some relief to districts eyeing cuts.
But the differences between proposals put forth by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican House and Senate are significant.
Dayton wants to spend an additional $711 million for preschool through grade 12 over the two years beginning July 1. Included in his proposal is a 2 percent per year increase in the state’s bedrock per-pupil funding formula.
Bills approved in the past week by the House and Senate call for E-12 spending increases of about $270 million and $300 million, respectively, with per-pupil increases of 1.25 percent per year in the House proposal and 1.5 percent in the Senate’s.
A big point of contention involves preschool funding. About a quarter of Dayton’s $711 million spending plan would go to expanding prekindergarten offerings in districts and charter schools — an idea rejected in in-your-face style last week by the House.
The House’s approach to early education has included providing funds for preschool scholarships.
This week, the state Department of Education released district-by-district charts showing impacts of the three funding proposals. Separate calculations were made by district for general and special education funding, preschool funding and “equalization aid” that helps some rural and suburban districts cover building and maintenance costs. Go to bit.ly/2nPtnG4.
While the governor and legislative leaders sort out their differences, districts have until the end of June to finalize 2017-18 spending plans.
The St. Paul School District, for example, must resolve a possible $27.3 million budget gap, a task that will require considerable effort even if Dayton’s proposal were to prevail. Marie Schrul, the district’s chief financial officer, has said that a 2 percent increase in the per-pupil formula would generate about $6.4 million in new funding.