As we prepare to discuss Minnesota’s budget, and more specifically the education budget, we can begin by examining Governor Mark Dayton’s proposal for the 2014-15 biennium. The Governor starts the discussion by being honest about the choices we face. While protecting the middle class, he takes some bold steps in his education budget proposal: the proposal makes significant investments in E-12 education; proposes steps to stabilize education funding; creates a system, especially the funding formula, that is more flexible for districts and more transparent for parents. The Governor’s budget also repays the school shift by 2016.
In all, this budget creates better educational opportunities and outcomes for the children of our state:
- $399 million for early childhood and K-12 Education including:
- $118 million – to increase amount schools receive by $52 per student.
- $40 million – to pay for all-day kindergarten programs. Currently about 54 percent of Minnesota students are in all-day programs. With this investment 85 percent of students would be included in all-day programs.
- $125 million – to help districts pay for mandated special education programs. This would help ease general fund budgets to pay for regular classroom programs.
- $92 million – to increase early education learning.
- $44 million – to pay for an early learning scholarship program to help low-income parents pay for quality programs for their children.
- $1 million – to pay for school bullying prevention. These funds would help districts implement anti-bullying measures to ensure our schools are safer for all students.
As we move forward through the legislative session, there will be further discussion on these and other education proposals. As the chair of the Education Finance division, this is where I’ll be focusing my attention. We have already started that process with a joint hearing with the House Education Finance Division on Jan. 23. We plan to hear from those who are most involved in the educational process, including parents, teachers, students and administrators.
We have a lot of work to do, but I look forward to a bipartisan discussion with the Governor and our colleagues to make the investments that will prepare our students for colleges and careers, and strengthen our state’s workforce.
As always, I welcome your input to this discussion. You can reach me by email at email@example.com, by phone at 651-296-6820 and by mail at Senator Chuck Wiger (Attn. Kate Lynn Snyder) 205 Capitol. 75 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. St. Paul, MN 55155.