ST. PAUL, MINN – Thursday afternoon the Senate E-12 Budget Division passed its $16.88 billion Omnibus Finance Bill, an increase of $361.5 million over the previous biennium. While a 1 percent funding formula increase, significant investment in school readiness and school facilities funding accounts for the majority of the increase, several bills that help school districts in North Central Minnesota were also included. Senator Tom Saxhaug (DFL-Grand Rapids), who sits on the Senate E-12 Committee, is the author of three bills that address disparities in schools in his district.
The Omnibus finance bill includes $2 million for transportation sparsity aid, which will help 23 school districts in North Central Minnesota. Many rural schools in the region are forced to pay high transportation costs due to their large sizes. This sparsity aid will offset some of those costs.
“The Senate’s E-12 Finance Bill addresses long-standing inequities that face many rural school districts. The money for transportation is very important for schools in my region, and I’m happy to see this included in the bill,” said Sen. Saxhaug.
The bill also includes an appropriation of $5.2 million to provide per pupil aid for school districts with high concentrations of American Indian students. The state’s four Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools, which have fallen into disrepair and desperately need funding, benefit as well. This legislation would increase funding for about 78% of American Indian students in the state.
“It is my hope that this new money will help close the achievement gap for American Indian students,” said Saxhaug.
Sen. Saxhaug also authored a bill that would appropriate money to the Headwaters Science Center in Bemidji, which promotes inspiring scientific discovery and a love of learning. The Headwaters Center received $50,000 over the FY16-17 biennium.
“The Headwaters Science Center supports hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and is a huge asset to Northwestern Minnesota. This appropriation will help the Center continue to eliminate barriers to STEM opportunities,” said Saxhaug.
Sen. Saxhaug can be reached at Sen.Tom.Saxhaug@senate.mn or by calling his office at (651) 296-4136.