As the smell of freshly sharpened pencils settles into the air, children across the state are settling into their daily school routines. This school year there are new initiatives taking place in Minnesota schools. During the 2013-2014 biennium the state legislature made significant investments in E-12 public education.
One of the biggest changes this year is the addition of all-day kindergarten at schools across the state. During the 2013 Legislative Session we invested $485 million into education and much of that was dedicated to offering all-day kindergarten. Fortunately, children attending Anoka-Hennepin and Osseo area schools have had all-day kindergarten for either free or fee-based, for nearly a decade.
According to the A-H district, six elementary schools have added additions totaling 60,000 square feet in order to handle the influx of new kindergartners, all without raising property taxes. For years I have advocated on behalf of the all-day K model which really allows kids to build a solid academic foundation. I’m happy to see so many more kindergarteners across the state getting a solid start on the education that will serve them throughout life.
Kindergarteners will also benefit in other ways from legislation passed more recently in 2014. This year we made investments to school lunch and breakfast programs that will provide universal and nutritious breakfasts to all Minnesota kindergarten students. Our investment of $3.5 million to these programs will also allow students who qualify for reduced-price lunch to have free lunch. Access to healthy and nutritious meals is a precursor to getting a good education, especially for families living on the edge. In my opinion, increased funding to school-lunch and breakfast programs was the right decision.
This year we invested more than $11 million into three early education programs to ensure that every child is ready for kindergarten. This means more money dedicated to early learning scholarships, and the Early Childhood Family Education Program (ECFE). I was happy to chief author a long overdue increase in school readiness aid programs. Studies show that school readiness programs are vital for all kids. We know these programs work and I’m glad to see the expansion of these programs locally and across the state.
You will notice other changes in different places, like the school levy related line item on your property tax statements. An important measure I chief authored and the 2013 Legislature passed, was a significant step toward equalization of school aid. More equalization begins to level the education funding playing field by lifting some of the burden on property poor school districts and provides real property tax relief to residents and businesses.
Minnesota has made historic investments in E-12 education over the past two years while completely paying back the school shift of 2011 and before. The state finally has a Safe and Supportive Schools policy to protect children from bullying. I promise to continue fighting for better schools and greater investment in the areas that still need improvement.
You can contact Sen. Hoffman at Sen.John.Hoffman@senate.mn or by calling his office at (651) 296-4154.