Senate Republican Education bill shortchanges Minnesota; pushes costs to local communities

ST. PAUL, MINN — The Senate Republican education bill passed on Tuesday off of the Senate floor. The bill falls short of meeting the needs of Minnesota students at a time when the state is experiencing a projected $1.6 billion surplus. DFL Senators objected to not only the size of the bill—which is less than half of Governor Dayton’s $709 million education proposal, and will push costs to local property tax payers—but also to the fact that it fails to expand access to early education. The bill also contains several controversial policy provisions that could lead to the erosion of Minnesota’s tradition of high-quality teachers in the classroom.

“This bill simply doesn’t prioritize Minnesota kids. Senate Republicans repeatedly claimed they supported a funding increase for schools that would keep up with inflation and help avoid cuts, but when push came to shove they came up short. The reality of not properly investing in the funding formula means the costs of public schools will be shifted to communities in the form of increased property taxes. I am disappointed in this education bill, and I think we as Minnesotans can do a lot better,” said Sen. Susan Kent (DFL-Woodbury).

BACKGROUND:

The lack of any new funding for expanding voluntary pre-kindergarten lies in sharp contrast to Governor Dayton’s proposed $175 million pre-k expansion. No new money will mean thousands of 4-year-olds won’t have access to critical pre-k programming to help prepare them for kindergarten.

Despite promises made by Republican leadership to fully fund the basic education funding formula, which goes directly to keep class sizes small and pay electricity bills, their bill falls short yet again of giving schools adequate resources. By shortchanging the funding formula, schools will be faced with cuts, as the state investments won’t keep up with inflation costs or adequately address education needs across the state, meaning local taxpayers will be left filling in the gap.

Controversial policy provisions in the bill include changes to tiered licensure for teachers. As Minnesota faces a teacher shortage, these changes will likely result in school districts hiring teachers with lower qualifications, as the bill would allow some individuals with no teacher training to teach in Minnesota schools for as long as they wish.

2017 Educating Funding Comparison

Governor Senate Republicans
Total Biennial Budget Increase:

$709 million

 

$300 million

Basic Education Funding Formula:

2% each year

$370 million (FY18-19)

 

1.5% each year

$274 million (FY18-19)

Voluntary pre-k for 4-year-olds

$175 million

 

$0

Senator Susan Kent
Susan Kent represents District 53 in the eastern Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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