Most parents will have access to free, all-day kindergarten beginning in the Fall of 2014 under a $15.7 billion education funding bill given final approval by the Legislature on Sunday. The Senate approved the bill on a 41-26 vote and sent it to Gov. Mark Dayton.
The bill is both the biggest single part of the state’s general fund budget and a top priority of the DFL Legislature. Their reason for taking the unpopular step of raising taxes is to provide the popular benefit of all-day kindergarten, as well as other education improvements.
All-day kindergarten will be optional for school districts, but sponsors expect most districts to provide it.
The bill includes $485 million in new money and includes a $40 million boost in scholarships for lower-income families to send their children to high-quality pre-schools; a $40 million increase in special education aid; and an increase in the basic classroom education formula.
“This is a great bill, that has reform, puts us on a path for each Minnesota student to be successfully ready for college and career as part of the world’s best work force,” said Sen. Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, chair of the E-12 Finance Division.
“When are we going to get down the business of making sure we are educating kids?” responded Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie. “When are we going to get off the idea that somehow spending money equates to that?”
The bill ends the high-stakes high school graduation tests known as the GRAD tests, and it raises the age at which students can drop out from 16 to 17. It also softens high-stakes basic skills testing for teachers by giving teachers two additional one-year provisional licenses if they cannot pass the tests.
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Special legislative session likely as Gov. Mark Dayton seeks to address walleye shortage at Lake Mille Lacs
Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he expects to call a special legislative session for lawmakers to help businesses on Lake Mille Lacs that are struggling due to the decline of walleye fishing.
Mille Lacs resorts and other area businesses could face tough times if the walleye season is cut short, as seems likely.