We’ve been sifting through Governor Mark Dayton’s budget. Previously we analyzed his tax and child care proposals, and now we’re looking into his education proposals.
In his budget, Dayton affirms his commitment to Minnesota’s students. About half of the new spending in the governor’s budget goes to our state’s students, from early childhood to college.
Two major initiatives in E-12 education are expanding pre-kindergarten and additional funding for school districts under the general formula.
Dayton proposes funding to encourage expansion of free pre-kindergarten starting in FY 2017. Under the governor’s proposal, schools would need to provide matching funds and districts would be given a year to plan before pre-kindergarten begins. Since Dayton proposes that pre-kindergarten will be available in more districts over time, the costs grow accordingly, from $106 million in FY 2017 to $360 million in FY 2018-19.
The governor’s pre-kindergarten proposal represents one of several early childhood priorities that he has put forth to serve children in their earliest years, including child care through Basic Sliding Fee and Head Start. The governor uses a multi-pronged approach to help children to start off in stable environments and serve the diverse needs Minnesota’s families.
Dayton also increases the general funding formula for school districts by one percent in both FY 2016 and 2017. This translates to a $58 increase per pupil in FY 2016 and a $59 increase per pupil in FY 2017. This helps Minnesota schools keep up with the rising costs of teaching Minnesota’s students.
The governor also makes additional investments in FY 2016-17 in our E-12 students, including:
- $4 million for two initiatives to address the achievement gap, the Northside Achievement Zone and the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood
- $8 million for the state’s English learning program
- $10 million for Minnesota Reading Corps
- $19 million for Head Start
- $28 million for school breakfasts for students in pre-kindergarten to 3rd grade
Students in higher education are also a focus. Dayton’s budget proposal includes $25 million in improvements to financial aid through the Minnesota State Grant program. He would increase the maximum amount of financial aid to meet the cost of Minnesota’s public colleges and universities. The grant program also has a living allowance, which the governor would increase to match the federal poverty level. This would help Minnesota students better access all of our state’s public colleges and universities and help students meet their basic needs while in school.
Dayton also proposes providing half of the funding required for the University of Minnesota to continue a tuition freeze for another two years. In the 2013 Legislative Session, policymakers froze tuition at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) for two years. Under this year’s proposal, the governor asks the University of Minnesota to provide half of the funds needed for students to see another two years of flat tuition. Dayton has indicated that he will provide the same to MnSCU in his supplemental budget if MnSCU resolves an internal conflict between administration and faculty.
Dayton’s budget proposal represents important investments in Minnesota’s students and future workforce. Making educational opportunities more affordable for Minnesotans of all ages should be a high priority for the state.