ST. PAUL, Minn. – On Saturday evening, the Minnesota Senate passed the budget to fund early education through high school. Overall, the state is increasing funding for students by $485 million.
Highlights of the additional spending include:
· $134 million for All-Day Kindergarten throughout the state
· $40 million for Early Learning Scholarships to help students from low income families attend high-quality pre-kindergarten classes
· $40 million for Special Education to begin restoring a decade of cuts
· $234 million on the basic education formula to help meet the basic needs of schools (1.5% in 2014, 1.5% in 2015)
· $10 million for vocational and career training
· $1 million for Starbase, a rigorous Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program
· $500,000 for Math Corps to provide additional math tutors
· Gifted and Talented program expansion that requires districts to adopt guidelines for identifying students for Gifted and Talented programs, provides assessments that are sensitive to under-represented groups and allows districts to admit students under age five if they meet Gifted and Talented requirements
· Safe School funding is expanded to include purchase of laminated glass and efforts to improve school climate and costs associated with mental health services
Senator Chuck Wiger (DFL – Maplewood), chair of the Senate Education Finance committee and chief-author of the bill, released the following statement after the bill passed the Senate and was sent to Governor Dayton.
“This is a great day for Minnesota’s students and Minnesota’s future. We are investing in programs that work, such as all-day kindergarten and early education. These are strategic investments. Research has shown a 16-to-1 return on investment on money put into early learning opportunities. Sixteen-to-one is a smart investment. Every student in Minnesota should have access to all-day K. It should not be based on your zip code or your ability to pay.
“In addition to the needed funding increase, we are making significant reforms. We have better testing designed for early intervention and promoting college and career readiness. One test of 40 or 50 questions should not determine if you are good or bad student. We have great teachers in Minnesota and this bill makes needed reforms, like raising the compulsory education age to 17, to help us make progress toward lowering the achievement gap.
“Today is a significant step forward for Minnesota. These students have a direct impact on our future. They are the next generation of our workforce. We are once again making education a top priority.”