U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Tuesday entered the preschool debate in Minnesota, urging lawmakers to invest in early-learning programs.
Duncan visited with preschoolers at Richardson Elementary School in North St. Paul. Joining him were Gov. Mark Dayton, whose top legislative priority is offering preschool to all four-year-olds in the state, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius.
The delegation spent about 10 minutes visiting with preschoolers before speaking with reporters.
Duncan entered the politically charged debate at a critical moment. Dayton, Senate DFLers and House Republicans are locked in a three-way battle over how — and how much — to fund early learning efforts, with few signs of compromise so far.
Dayton is pushing hard on a proposal that would make preschool a part of the public school system. The cost would start at $343 million for two years. His early-learning proposal also continues the $54 million in scholarships, which have funded 12,000 youngsters at private preschools, as well as at public schools offering pre-K programs.
The House GOP's recently-approved education bill ignored Dayton's universal preschool plan, preferring instead to support the existing network of private preschools. They would offer an additional $30 million in vouchers tied to a ratings system that helps parents assess the quality of preschool programs.
The Senate DFL is taking an altogether different approach, with a small $5 million boost for preschool vouchers, but $70 million for “school readiness” programs that offer individual schools maximum flexibility in determining how to prepare children for kindergarten.
Duncan expressed support for Dayton's universal preschool plan for four-year-olds. Duncan said it's important to also serve children from birth to age 3 to ensure they are prepared to enter kindergarten.
"I can't overstate how important this is, and I hope, I just really hope this state doesn't squander this opportunity," Duncan said.
"We have this false argument [over scholarships or universal preschool]," Duncan said. "If you could and you can provide this to every single child, my question is, 'Why wouldn't you do that?' "
Photo: U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan greets students at Richardson Elementary School in North St. Paul. (Ricardo Lopez/Star Tribune)
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said Monday that the Legislature will have to come up with $6 million, and possibly more, for several state agencies that are battling the outbreak of avian flu at Minnesota turkey farms.
Last week, both the House and Senate approved almost $900,000 in emergency funds for the state Department of Agriculture and Board of Animal Health. But Bakk said the costs are adding up quickly, and that Minnesota Management and Budget had recalculated the total to $6 million by the end of last week.
That total could continue to rise depending on the course of the outbreak, he said.
Bakk said lawmakers would have to work on figuring out a way for Gov. Mark Dayton to be able to allocate additional funds if necessary once the session ends. He said he'd like to figure out a contingency fund arrangement of some sort so that a special legislative session over the issue could be avoided.
Dayton is convening a Monday afternoon meeting of the state Executive Council to extend a state emergency order. By the end of last week, almost 50 turkey farms in Minnesota had been affected by the outbreak, resulting in the loss of almost 3 million birds.
A bill to pay back budget shifts and give modest tax relief to property owners and businesses that hire veterans was released by the Senate DFL today.
The $460 million price tag is far apart from the Republican-controlled House, which has outlined a plan for $2 billion in tax cuts for business, Social Security recipients, military retirees, people with student loans a host of other interest groups.
The Senate plan would use $225 million to pay back accounting shifts that occured during tough budget years.
The plan would provide about $200 million in tax relief, much of it directed at property taxpayers, either through direct cuts or by increasing local government aid, which could give local governments the ability to hold down taxes.
The Senate plan would also spend $47 million during the next two years on a tax credit for businesses that hire veterans.
The Senate Taxes Committee will take up the bill Tuesday.
Good morning. Wild advance and three weeks until the 2015 legislative session ends, assuming the House and Senate can come to an agreement and Gov. Mark Dayton signs on.
Senate Taxes Chairman Rod Skoe introduces his omnibus tax bill today. It will contrast sharply with the House plan. Senate in session at noon. House at 3:30. Full schedule.
Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith meet with Canadian Governor General (?) David Johnston. Dayton has an emergency meeting of the Executive Council at 3:00 for bird flu that’s open press. Then he makes remarks at 6:30 for the opening of the Olympus Brooklyn Park (Olympus, 9600 Louisiana Ave North, Brooklyn Park.)
An oft-quoted statistic that by 2018 70 percent of Minnesota jobs will require post-secondary education is flat wrong, Adam Belz reports. It’s way too high. It’s a number that gets thrown around the Capitol a lot.
Schools scrambling to get ready for new mandatory ACT. On April 28, 64,000 juniors will sit for the exam, Erin Adler reports.
Former Minneapolis City Council policy aide recording the stories of the transgendered, Erin Golden reports.
House GOP passed their education budget Saturday, and Ricardo Lopez was there.
Over the weekend, Pat Condon looked at the much touted Republican rural agenda and finds gaps in the budget plan.
RSB and Montgomery mention the unmentionable: A possible shutdown.
Washington and beyond
AP: Clinton Foundation acknowledges missteps in donor disclosure.
Roll Call: Comcast failed acquisition a win for Franken.
Dozens of teachers and House DFL members rallied Saturday ahead of a floor debate on a Republican-sponsored education bill that they say will result in the cutting of programs and teaching staff, among other effects.
House members are taking up the GOP-sponsored education omnibus bill, which proposes spending $1.06 billion more than the current two-year budget cycle. Of that, $157 million is new spending. Republicans are proposing an overall $16.9 billion budget for education.
Gov. Mark Dayton, by comparison, has proposed $695 million in new spending, the bulk of which would be for his top priority of offering universal preschool for all four-year-olds in the state. The Senate DFL has proposed spending an additional $350 million, and House DFLers this week called for $800 million in new spending.
The Republican education bill boosts spending on early education programs by $40 million, through the expansion of early-learning scholarships for low-income families and a small increase to school readiness programs. They've also proposed
Republicans have also proposed increases of about a half percent yearly on the state's per-pupil funding formula, which is currently at $5,831 per student. The House DFL caucus on Thursday proposed instead a two percent yearly increase on the formula.
Without those larger increases, DFL leaders say that schools will be forced to lay teachers off, grow class sizes and cut programs.
Among some of the most contentious provisions in the Republican education bill is a proposal to diminish the role of seniority during layoffs, or unrequested leave. Another provision would streamline licensing procedures for out-of-state teachers.
Education Minnesota, the statewide teachers union that organized Saturday's rally, has vigorously opposed the reform measures.
The House is expected to take up the education bill at 1 p.m. after a 90 minute recess that caught DFL lawmakers by surprise. Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said his caucus had anticipated that debate on the measure would get immediately underway at 11 a.m.
Photo: Teachers and DFL House members rallied at the steps of the Capitol Saturday, criticizing the Republican education bill expected to be debated in the afternoon.