Lawmakers came away from the 2013 legislative session passing record budgets and new funding formulas for both kindergarten through grade 12 and higher education.
During a 20-hour marathon final day of the session, lawmakers approved more than $2.1 billion for K-12 education and a higher education budget with just more than $900 million in spending.
K-12 funding and the new funding formula are contained within House Bill 1013, the Department of Public Instruction budget.
Folded into HB1013 during the final day of the session, as part of a final compromise between the House and Senate, was House Bill 1319. HB1319 contained the new funding formula proposed by Gov. Jack Dalrymple.
“Both the K-12 system and our higher education system have truly remarkable reforms (in place),” Dalrymple said Saturday morning. “They are major improvements in the way we fund education.”
On the morning of the session’s final day, the House killed HB1319 a day after narrowly passing it, creating a day full of meetings and negotiations between the two chambers.
The compromise reached with HB1013 set the number of mills used to calculate a district’s state aid at 60 mills. The number of mills had been a major point of contention between both chambers that boiled over on the final day of the session. The Senate had wanted the number of mills set at 50, as had been recommended by the governor, while the House wanted it at 70 mills.
As passed, HB1013 permanently builds property tax cuts into the state K-12 funding formula. It sets the combined state and local share of K-12 education funding to $8,810 per student for the 2013-14 school year and $9,092 the following year, a sharp increase from the $3,980 paid out in 2012-13 and $3,910 in 2011-12.
The final bill contains nearly $660 million in property tax cuts. School districts that wish to pursue additional funding can do so through a local vote. Beginning teachers’ salaries also are raised from $22,500 to $27,500.
To complete the final K-12 deal, Senate Bill 2036, a property tax relief bill was passed. SB2036 contains $200 million in property tax cuts.
Although the maneuvering to change the K-12 funding bill made for a more than 20-hour day, legislative leadership called the end result a good one.
“We’ve got to take care of our young people,” said Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson.
Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks, said while he was pleased that a package for K-12 education eventually passed, it was disturbing to watch the day’s battle to reach a compromise unfold.
“The lack of leadership, in part, contributed to the circus atmosphere following the defeat of the K-12 funding bill,” Schneider said. “Something that plunged the education community into chaos and caused decisions involving hundreds of millions of dollars to be done essentially by the seat of the GOP majority’s pants.”
A landmark higher education budget and funding formula also were passed. Senate Bill 2003 contains approximately $900 million in funding.
The new funding formula for higher education is found in Senate Bill 2200. The formula provides funding based on the number of credit hours completed, rather than by student enrollment.
The formula has a point system that weights credit hours. The points vary by course level, such as entry level, graduate level and professional level. Funding would be determined by adding up the total completed credit hours and multiplying the number by a per-credit-hour amount set for state aid. Levels of state aid levels are set for research universities, four-year colleges and two-year colleges.
A nearly $180 million pool for the funding of individual capital improvement projects on the state’s 11 campuses was created.
Voters also will have the chance to decide on changes to the state’s higher education governance structure.
House Concurrent Resolution 3047 puts the option of creating a three-member Commission of Higher Education on the 2014 general election ballot. The commission would consist of full-time employees, replacing the part-time state Board of Higher Education and the chancellor position.