There were big updates from the Minnesota State Legislature as committees began to walk-through the omnibus bills that they are responsible for developing. Here’s a breakdown of some of what you need to know.
A walk through is basically what it sounds like. Legislative staff–researchers and fiscal analysts– will walk legislators through the bill line-by-line or section-by-section noting various elements of import throughout the bill pertinent to the specific committee that is meeting for that walk-through.
What’s an omnibus bill?
An omnibus bill is basically a bunch of policy and finance bills, focused on a specific issue and funded through a specific state agency, gathered into one large bill.
Writing, presenting, and passing an omnibus bill is complicated. Here’s a breakdown of one bill from this week.
- The House Education Finance committee met on Tuesday to walk-through the proposed K-12 Education Policy and Finance omnibus bill and associated spreadsheet, and on Wednesday they heard testimony related to the bill.
- On Thursday they met to “write-up” something called a “DE Amendment” that will be used to reshape the omnibus bill from how it was originally written. A DE Amendment is a “Delete Everything Amendment,” and it will literally delete everything that was in the original version of the bill and replace it with new or updated language.
- The Delete Everything Amendment Ais technically what was shared by the committee chair (the bill’s chief author) at the Tuesday committee and that write-up will be used to amend that amendment –the bill as it currently stands– in such a way that it can be voted out of committee onto the next step of the process.
- In a “write-up,” legislators will offer amendments to the bill as presented and then vote on those amendments before voting on the bill as a whole to move it on to its next step.
- The House Education Finance and Policy omnibus bill combines language from bills heard in the House Education Finance committee as well as bills housed in the House Education Policy committee, and recommendations from the governor and lieutenant governor’s budget recommendations.
- In the walk-through house analysts, staff trained to write the bills and to make sense of them to legislators and the public, review the bills section-by-section to discuss the cost of each proposal in the omnibus bill, changes from how something might have been originally proposed in committee or by the governor, and any additional information.
- It’s important to note that not everything in an omnibus bill is new information. When reading a bill, pay attention to underlined information– that’s new information. Language that is crossed out in the bill is being proposed to be taken out of statute. Everything else is standing bill language.
- Each omnibus bill also comes from a spreadsheet that breaks down the cost of each proposed proposal, the potential increases or decreases in a proposal cost from past years, and the differences between the governor’s and legislative recommendations for an issue.
- These are long bills that cover a myriad of really important topics! If you have any questions on the process please reach out to Cirien at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is the House K-12 Education Finance and Policy omnibus bill?
The Delete Everything-amended-bill House K-12 Education Finance and Policy bill will be over 300 pages long, made up of 13 articles and several hundred subsections. DFL legislators are touting it as a transformative bill.
“With this proposal we make historic investments in our schools. We ensure that the learning environments in our schools, communities, work for all of our students and that our teachers, principals, and administrators have the tools they need to meet students where they are at,” said Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL - District 46B), the bill’s chief author and the chair of the House Education Finance committee.
The bill includes increased funding for something called “the formula allowance per pupil,” which is a per-student number used to decide how much money each school district gets in their basic general revenue pot.
This is the formula laid out in the bill:
- 2024: formula allowance increased to $7138/pupil
- 2025: formula allowance increased to $7281/pupil
- 2026: formula allowance increased to $7425/pupil
- 2026: formula allowance increased to $7586/pupil
Additionally the bill would fully cover 100% of Minnesota’s English Learner cross-subsidy by 2027.
According to the Minnesota Rural Education Association, “The cross subsidy is the amount of money from the District's General Fund used to pay the un-reimbursed cost of providing services. The two biggest cross subsidies that districts were not reimbursed for are Special Education and English Language Learners. This affects a district's general fund greatly.”
House Fiscal Analyst, Solveig Beckel, presenting the costs associated with the bill, 0% of the EL cross-subsidy would be covered in 2024, but 33% would be covered in 2025, 66% would be covered in 2026, and the cross-subsidy would be fully covered in 2027.
The bill would also cover just under 50% of the Special Education cross-subsidy.
The omnibus bill, as proposed, also includes a number of proposals requested by local teachers including MPS educators and union members. These proposals include due process time for special education teachers so that they have time to complete paperwork required within the job within their paid hours, and within a set number of days of working with a student, as well as paid hours for para-educators, and access to unemployment insurance access for hourly workers in the school districts who are laid off for the summer when school is no longer in session.
The bill, as proposed, would also provide an additional $17 million to the Grow Your Own program, each year, on an ongoing basis. Additionally the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board would get money to fund the Collaborative Urban and Greater Minnesota Educators of Color grant, Licensure Pathway Preparation grants, and heritage language and culture teacher licensure.
The House Education Finance and Policy bill also included language around cyber security, particularly pertinent given the cybersecurity incident impacting MPS schools and community members. Additionally there’s language and funding for gender-neutral, single-user bathrooms, as well as access to free menstrual health products, and a requirement to have two doses of naloxone available at each school site and readily available.
The Minnesota Department of Education would also receive a significant amount of money, including funding for a brand new Office of Inspector General “to increase oversight of the state dollars that are going into our schools,” via grant funding.
The Minnesota Department of Education was recently the subject of an audit by the Office of the Legislative Auditor, alongside the Department of Public Safety. In a report published in February, the Office of the Legislative Auditor found that both state departments failed to properly oversee grant management and the distribution of state-funded grants through their departments.
The author of this article did an in-depth dive into the report, and a House hearing on the report, for the Minnesota Women’s Press and The UpTake, published here.
The proposed House K-12 Education Finance and Policy omnibus bill includes dozens of grants to be administered for education-related purposes.
What does this bill mean for MPS, and its solvency as a school district?
The bill does not go far enough for MPS, according to some who showed up in committee on Wednesday asking for the Minnesota State Legislature to fully fund Minnesota’s public schools.
MPS parent and organizer Molly Carina Dengler and MPS board member Adriana Cerrillo spoke at committee. Cerrillo testified in Spanish and Dengler translated Cerrillo’s comments to English. Spanish is MPS’ second most commonly-spoken language after English.
“At the beginning of the legislative session you said that you would address the under-funding of EL services, and you did. But we want it now, not in 2027,” said Cerrillo as translated by Dengler. “You also said that you would link the general education formula to inflation. And thank you, you did. But we want it now, not in 2027.”
Cerrillo went on to discuss the impacts of the proposed legislation on MPS.
“These two provisions are incredibly important to our students, families, staff, Minnesota, and our country. The certainty that this will give our schools in terms of staffing and programming cannot be underestimated,” said Cerrillo. “The current EL formula only funds a third of district’s costs statewide. Closing this gap will assure that our students will have what they need to make academic progress.”
Also discussed in Cerrillo’s testimony was the formula allowance increase.
“Tying the formula to inflation will also give schools the certainty of not-a-blank-check because they will know what will come year-after-year,” said Cerrillo as translated by Dengler.
Cerrillo did not discuss the Special Education cross-subsidy, which has long been requested by the district and is one reason the district’s deficit has remained so challenging for the district to deal with. The special education cross-subsidy costs millions of dollars to the district each year.
According to literature from the Minnesota Department of Education, the special education cross-subsidy costs MPS $1,152 per pupil, which ends up being a huge burden on the district. Cross-subsidies were originally developed under Minnesota state law in order to ensure that Minnesota school districts were providing the necessary services to special education students. The cross-subsidy allowed for students to enroll in schools out of their district in order to receive the special education services they need, but it would then be on the district to reimburse MDE for the cost of that student’s attendance out of district through a financial process called “tuition billing.”
The House K-12 Education Finance and Policy omnibus bill will need to continue working its way through the legislative process, being heard in other pertinent committees, like the House Education Policy committee and the Ways and Means committee. Community members will be able to testify at various points along the way, and they can always contact their legislators directly via phone call, voice mail, or email.
Once the House K-12 Education Finance and Policy omnibus bill has made it through committees, and the Senate K-12 Education Finance and Policy omnibus bill, legislators from both bodies will generally begin to meet in something called a “conference committee” to hammer out the differences between both bills. A conference committee is a joint meeting of legislators from both the House and the Senate, and from both the DFL and the GOP, meeting collaboratively to bring two separate omnibus bills together into one bill that both bodies can then discuss on their respective Floors. These omnibus bills can still change once they make it to the House and Senate floors, as amendments are offered, discussed, and voted on. If that happens legislators will often go back to conference committee to work out bill differences.