Mayors from three of Minnesota's largest cities converged outside the governor's office Thursday to decry what they said were major cuts to their school districts under the Republican education budget proposal.
GOP majorities at the Capitol have made swift progress this week on a $14 billion K-12 funding bill that accounts for about 40 percent of the state's overall general fund budget. The policy-laden legislation may be one of the first budget measures to reach DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's desk, though his administration already has expressed deep concerns with many provisions.
While the bill increases per-pupil funding levels, it eliminates integration aid that went primarily to the Twin Cities and Duluth. That was replaced with literacy funds that would be sprinkled across the state.
Data compiled by the governor's office show the bill sends Minneapolis $174 less per pupil than projected costs for the fiscal year beginning July 2012. In St. Paul the difference is $145, while in Duluth it is $80.
"What you have in front of you is not a reform proposal," Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said. "Because if you want to reform schools, you better put your money where your mouth is."
Those figures were much higher in an earlier version of the K-12 budget, which was revised this week when the House and Senate bills were combined.
The latest bill, which has not yet been approved by the Legislature, would give the three cities additional transition funds to soften the blow.
A freeze on special education funding levels also was nixed in the latest bill in favor of merely slowing the rate of growth. The overall increase in per-pupil funding levels, originally about $50 per year, was reduced to about $20.
Dayton has said he would like all budget bills to exclude policy reforms, which are a core component of the K-12 bill.
The legislation would eliminate teacher tenure, prevent teachers from striking and create an A through F system for grading schools. The state would also begin evaluating teachers based heavily on student testing and tying that to their continued employment.
Another controversial provision would offer poor families in low-performing public schools vouchers to pay for private schools.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman described the bill as "mean-spirited" during the appearance Thursday. "This is not an educational proposal, this is a political vendetta," Coleman said.
Eric Roper • 651-222-1210 Twitter: @StribRoper