More Money But Not Much Time – Important Update

The 2021 Legislative Session is moving quickly toward a close, with the leadership indicating that they hope to wrap it up this weekend. Lots of work remains, and we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop as final details emerge.

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee met last week and raised the revenue estimate for the coming budget year by $173-million
 to a level that should easily provide for the teacher pay raise and other needed projects, such as narrowing the gap in MAEP funding. We will be watching HB 1387, the school funding bill, and will let you know how your school district fares.

Most of the bills we are tracking are being negotiated by conference committees, and as of this writing, only one, HB 754, has had a conference report filed. HB 754, the dyslexia bill, aligns state statute with federal law and makes clarifications regarding determination of eligibility for a 504 plan. Additionally, the conference report calls for school districts to provide four hours of training on dyslexia and related disorders for teachers and paraprofessionals. The conference report will go to both chambers for floor votes. 

Conferees have been named for bills addressing school funding, the teacher shortage, and broadband expansion. As conference reports on those bills are filed, we will post descriptions on our Bill Tracker web page.

The House has not named conferees for SB 2664, the pre-k bill that is the only remaining option for putting into law an increase in per-student state funding for Early Learning Collaboratives. A lack of conferees at this point in the process is perhaps a sign that the House intends to kill SB 2664. We are hopeful that, even if this bill dies, the Legislature will appropriate ELC funding at the higher rate and provide a directive that collaboratives be funded accordingly, just as they did for the current budget year. However, the statute change is important. When communities are asked to commit to the high standards required of ELC partners, they need to be assured that sufficient funding to meet those standards will be forthcoming from the state. The current per-student rate outlined in statute is insufficient for collaboratives to meet the state requirements, and local communities are having to make up the difference. This discourages many of the low-wealth communities most in need of high-quality pre-k from participating. 

We will be watching closely over the weekend as conference reports are filed, and we promise to keep you posted with important updates. 

Thanks so much for always being willing to stand up for our children and our public schools. Together, we’ve got this!

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