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.