After two days of public testimony and debate, the House Education Finance Committee passed Republican’s K-12 budget bill, which caps special education funding and strips dollars from areas like Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth while increasing the funding formula for schools across the state.
The bill, authored by Republican Education Finance Chair Pat Garofalo, passed Tuesday on a 12-7 vote. The bill drew the most criticism from DFL legislators from the metro area, who said the bill hits first-class cities hardest. Among their concerns:
- It eliminates funding set aside to desegregate schools for Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth.
- The bill funds vouchers for some low-income students to attend private schools, which DFLers say would allow the state’s private schools to pick and choose which students to accept and leave public schools to teach the state’s most challenging students.
- It caps state special education funding. Some lobbyists and legislators say this will hit metro-area schools and regional centers the hardest, as they have the highest population of special education students in the state.
- The proposal forces the Perpich Center for Arts Education, currently a state agency, to either become a charter school or close within two years. The school was named for the former DFL Gov. Rudy Perpich and lies in a DFL district (Golden Valley).
DFL Rep. Mindy Greiling said the bill is the most partisan proposal she has seen in her time on the House Education Committee, saying it was like “war on Minneapolis and St. Paul.”
Republican Rep. Sondra Erickson, who chairs the House Education Reform Committee, said integration funds have been misused by the cities over the years and have done nothing to close the achievement gap. “We have funding that is not serving its purpose and is being abused at an unconscionable level,” she said. Freshman GOP Rep. Branden Petersen agreed, saying they were “correcting inequities that were created decades ago.”
With money saved from these proposals, the bill increases the per pupil funding formula for every school, and gives extra to districts that have 1,000 students or less.
The bill also cuts funding for the Minnesota Department of Education and implements policy proposals that have drawn the ire of the DFL-friendly teacher’s unions. That includes a provision to target teacher’s collective bargaining rights, another to allow school districts to lay off teachers regardless of seniority and one that would require teachers to apply for tenure every five years.
The bill will now head to the House Taxes Committee.