One of the things I respect most about Governor Dayton is his willingness to say it like it is. When he says schools and Minnesota students are his biggest priority, he puts his money where his mouth is. Like the Governor, I believe an investment in our kids is an investment in a strong future. To that end, I’m happy to say I fully support Governor Dayton’s education budget proposals for the next two-year biennium.
For starters, the Governor has proposed a 2% increase in the basic education formula for each of the next two years. This means an additional $121 per student for the 2017-2018 school year and $124 per student for the 2018-2019 school year. These additional funds are critical for our students and teachers. Technology keeps changing and we need students to be prepared for a 21st century that will present careers and opportunities that we have yet to imagine. These funds also help keep our student/teacher ratio down and keeps education aides in our classrooms. Our schools in Senate District 36 are growing, these additional funds will go a long way to ensure every new student to our district gets the high quality, world-class education we’ve prided ourselves on for decades.
I’d also like to highlight the Governor’s special education proposal. Funding for special education services is needed to ensure all children have access to a quality public education as defined by law. The Governor’s additional investment of $40 million will help school districts maintain current Special Education programs. As an advocate for our students with disabilities and their families, I applaud this increase, while recognizing there is more work to be done.
Finally, I’d like to address early childhood education. I support the Governor’s proposal for an additional $75 million for early childhood programming. The state has seen great success already in its investment in early childhood programming two years ago. This added investment would allow for an additional 6,000 children to enroll in early childhood education classes. The Governor is also calling for expanding the eligibility to include learners under the age of three. This is a tremendous idea because it gives a boost to toddlers at a crucial stage of development and eases the burden of child care costs, which have left many family budgets stretched too thin. Our corner of the metro is blessed with impressive early childhood programs including New Horizons, Head Start and the Anoka-Hennepin School District partnership, to name a few.
While the two-year budget looks very similar to an alphabet soup of acronyms, I will continue to look beyond the numbers to understand and communicate how these items impact our community on a local level.