K-12 funding bill clears the House in the early hours

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Early Sunday morning, the House passed the $15.6 billion K-12 omnibus funding bill. The action came around 2 a.m., long after the Senate had adjourned, according to Politics in Minnesota, which reports that the bill would top the agenda when the Senate floor session convenes at 1:00 this afternoon.The legislation includes optional all-day kindergarten and additional investments in early childhood education. Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, who authored the bill, said it would improve literacy rates and take steps to close the racial achievement gap.

The conference committee report, which was agreed to late Friday afternoon, represents a compromise between the House and Senate on a variety of positions. The bill will increase the basic funding formula to schools by $234 million, or 3 percent, which Marquart said would break down to more than $300 in new spending per student.

As agreed upon in the conference committee, the $800-plus million worth of outstanding school shift debt would be paid down through the accumulated budget surplus. Rep. Kelby Woodard, R-Belle Plaine, faulted the DFL for going back on a pledge to pay back the school shift. Rep. Marquart said using the surplus to pay down the shift was sufficient, saying that the state had nearly $300 million in surplus revenue over the previous three months.

The bill passed by a margin of 78-56, with five Republicans joining the DFL.

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