The Minnesota House takes up a $15.7 billion K-12 education funding bill today, a measure that spends money raised from higher taxes to offer all-day kindergarten to all the state's students.
The measure, traditionally the biggest single element in the state budget, also includes new money for early-childhood education, for helping districts with lower-than-average property wealth and for putting more money into basic classroom education.
"This is a historic day for Minnesota," said the sponsor, Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, chairman of the education finance committee. He said the bill fleshes out a goal to create the "world's best workforce" and to eliminate the achievement gap and reach 100 percent high school graduate by the time today's pre-schoolers graduate in 2027.
The $15.7 billion total represents an increase of $550 million over the current base, Marquart said.
Business groups have been running ads against a provision in the bill that ends the so-called GRAD tests required for high school graduation, and replaces them with a new testing system. Marquart said the current system isn't working and the new tests will better prepare students for college or employment.
The House is expected to begin debating the bill in the afternoon.
Gov. Mark Dayton, speaking to a mostly Republican audience at the annual Minnesota Business Partnership dinner, repeated his familiar attack on the House GOP, blaming them for a legislative impasse on transportation.
Senate Democrats abandoned President Barack Obama Wednesday, siding with Republicans to overwhelmingly reject his veto and permit families of Sept. 11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia for the kingdom's alleged backing of the attackers.