Governor Dayton on January 24 proposed $609 million in additional E-12 education investments, increasing the basic education formula and providing more funds to expand the voluntary Pre-K program for Minnesota 4-year-olds.
Under the Governor’s proposal, the Basic Education funding formula would increase by two % each year for a total of $370 in new investments that support school districts educational programs. The additional funding will provide to schools roughly $120 per student each year of the biennium.
An additional $75 million investment would expand the popular Pre-K for 4-year-olds. Last session, the legislature appropriated $88 million for the Governor’s pre-K initiative, with 3,300 children currently being served. 60 % of the school districts that applied did not receive funding last year. The additional funding would provide free pre-K options to 6,000 more children in Minnesota. The Governor has not proposed any additional funding for early learning scholarships, but will propose expanding the program to more children ages 0-5, instead of just 3-4-year-olds.
Minnesota schools face a serious gap in special education funding; the Governor’s $40 million initiative would help ease the burden of this general education budget “cross subsidy”. While the Governor’s proposal is modest, it will help schools maintain their special education programs which districts are required to provide by federal law. Additionally, the federal government, which promised over 40 years ago to fund 40 % of mandated costs, only provides Minnesota with 14 % of what was promised.
In 2016 the legislature appropriated $12.13 million for a grant programs to help schools hire new support staff (counselors, nurses, school psychologists, social workers, and chemical dependency counselors) to address shortages. 70 additional personnel have been hired under the current appropriation; the $4 million would provide an additional 30 staff members.
The Governor’s budget also provides funding for pension relief ($68 million); debt service equalization policy changes which will provide property tax relief for an additional 21 school districts and increases aid for 38 of 40 districts that currently receive equalization dollars ($20 million); additional investments in Full Service Community Schools ($2 million); Help Me Grow ($3 million); $4.4 million for American Indian Education initiatives, and $1 million for Education Partnerships/Transformation Zones.