Shaking hands with kids as they filed into the first day of school, Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday renewed his demand that the Legislature spend more state dollars toward prekindergarten class offerings at schools statewide.
"Are you the governor?" one little girl demanded of Dayton at Brimhall Elementary School in Roseville (he confirmed he was). One parent was heard to explain that Dayton was something like a president of Minnesota.
Elementary schools are one of Dayton's favorite settings for staged events. He noted Tuesday that the new academic year will be the second in which schools statewide are offering all-day kindergarten, a funding priority that Dayton secured in the 2013 legislative session.
Dayton has struggled so far to build similar legislative support for his prekindergarten push. While framed as his top priority for much of the last legislative session, lawmakers declined to steer significant new resources toward prekindergarten classes even as Dayton dropped the size of his demand.
In the session that starts next March, Dayton again said access to free prekindergarten classes for families statewide would again be at the top of his legislative wishlist.
"A lot of four-year-olds could have been joining their older siblings at school today," Dayton said during a press conference in front of the school.
The Legislature will start next session with about $1 billion in unspent state funds, plus the possibility of additional budget surplus, and Dayton said he hopes it's enough both for a prekindergarten funding boost and other priorities of the legislative caucuses.
According to a Roseville Area Schools online catalog, families can currently buy into all-day prekindergarten classes at Brimhall and several other Roseville elementary schools for $258 a month for two days a week, $360 a month for three days a week and $618 a month for all five days.