On the countdown…..

On the countdown…..

keep calmLast night the Supplemental Budget Committee met. As they still have not been provided a new target, we are still in a waiting game.  However, a notable education amendment was offered.

Rewind to earlier in the session when targets were first announced, the Governor, the House and Senate agreed to use repurposed money based on the repayment of Maximum Effort School Loans for education funding. The fiscal note for HF 3043 assumed six school districts would take advantage of a new authorization and early repayment of the loan, thus making available $52 million for education appropriations.

A bit of a surprise last Sunday, the Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) office and the commissioner of education (Minnesota Department of Education MDE) sent a letter to Chairs Cohen and Knoblach, Senator Fischbach and Representative Carlson. The letter set out to make all aware of additional information about the supplemental budget provisions all three bodies adopted.  MMB and MDE believes the fund savings with the current proposal are not likely to exceed $31.137 million and could be as low as $18.001 million.  This is based on feedback the MDE received from several participating school districts that they weren’t likely to use the new repayment plan due to a one-day bond sale opportunity that works as a tool for participants.

According to Tom Deans, Minnesota School Boards Association’s legal counsel, the amendment would remove the advantage from doing any one-day bond sales. By losing that incentive, it would make it more likely for the participating districts to utilize the incentive in the bill, thus making the $52 million available.

Another amendment presented directs the commissioner of education to work with the commissioner of higher education regarding the use of Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) for college ready benchmarks. MCA benchmarks would be set by the commissioner and must share them with the commissioner of higher education, who then has until December 31, 2016 to accept or reject the scores and provide feedback which the commissioner of education must consider. During the hearing, a Department of Education representative shared if the benchmarks were rejected and had to be revised, there would be an estimated cost of $375,000.  By the end of the evening there was a suggestion to gather more information on the cost associated with the amendment, even though all agreed on the language.

We will be following closely and trying to obtain more information. Once again, stay tuned!

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