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Dayton touts kindergarten spending on first day of school; Johnson focuses on achievement gap

Posted by: Patrick Condon under Minnesota campaigns, Minnesota governor, Gov. Mark Dayton Updated: September 2, 2014 - 6:04 PM

Gov. Mark Dayton visited an Brooklyn Center school as classes started Tuesday, where he emphasized his push for state funding to provide all-day kindergarten classes at every school in the state. 

Dayton, who faces a November challenge from Republican Jeff Johnson, visited with a handful of teachers and school administrators at Garden City Elementary before stepping out to the courtyard to greet students streaming in for the first day of the school year. 

"My first day ever as a teacher in New York City, I experienced a level of terror that I haven't reached again in my lifetime," Dayton said during a brief, organized discussion with kindergarten teachers and Osseo School District officials. 

Spending on K-12 education is a major responsibility of the state, and a point of contention in the race between Dayton and Johnson. While the DFL incumbent has touted the $134 million for all-day kindergarten, and other enhanced school funding he championed, Johnson has said that leaders and parents from one school district to the next should get more direct say in how they spend state money. 

Johnson called all-day kindergarten an example of the kind of strings-attached funding increase he would try to stamp out. Still, his campaign said if elected he would not seek to repeal the recent funding boost for the program. 

In a statement released Tuesday by his campaign, Johnson sought to highlight Minnesota's "achievement gap" -- the well-documented lag in test scores between white students and students of color in the state.

"I will have a 'let's try everything' mindset when it comes to closing the achievement gap," Johnson said in the statement.  

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