Early learning grants, small increases in per-pupil spending and a requirement that school districts consider performance, not solely seniority, when forced to lay off teachers are among the dozens of measures in an omnibus education bill unveiled by a House committee Tuesday.
If approved, the bill would spend $16.9 billion on education, up nearly 7 percent from the current two-year budget cycle. Though Republican leaders previously announced that many government divisions would receive nominal increases, House budget targets did not account for inflationary pressures in the cost of delivering state services.
"We put together our Education Omnibus Bill with the idea that every Minnesota child deserves a world-class education," said House Education Finance Committee Chair Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, in a statement. "From prioritizing our youngest learners with early learning scholarships to increasing per pupil funding to tackling the achievement gap, this bill works to ensure that every Minnesota student has the opportunity for academic success."
House DFLers, though, criticized the bill, saying that the increases to the per-pupil formula fall far short of what schools need, warning that it would lead to teacher layoffs.
"Minnesota’s kids are the biggest loser in the House Republican budget," said House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis. "We have a huge opportunity to take another leap forward to ensure every child gets the world-class education they deserve. Instead, we are taking a step back."
The House legislation would provide an increase of 1 percent to the per-pupil funding formula by fiscal year 2017, currently at $5,831 per student.
It also provides a $30 million increase for early learning scholarships, $9.5 million for school readiness aid, as well as increases for programs such as the state's Reading Corps, which provide tutoring services to about 30,000 students who participate in the program.
The bill also would make it possible for school boards to decide, without approval from the state's education commissioner, to operate on a four-day schedule, which some Minnesota schools have done.
Among the most controversial portions of the bill is a proposal that would reform how teacher layoffs are conducted, a top Republican priority this session. Education Minnesota, the statewide teachers union, has opposed efforts to revise state law that says that during layoffs, teachers are laid off based on seniority.
The union also opposes efforts to streamline the licensing process for out-of-state educators seeking to move to Minnesota.
For more details on the omnibus bill, click here. Legislators will take up the measure in committee this week.