Crunch time is coming for education funding. Sequestration is already putting a pinch on funds and only looks to get worse as Washington fights itself rather than work on the issue. This could put more of a burden on school districts and the state to protect education, but it waits to be seen if they are up to the task.
Education Minnesota, the Minnesota School Board Association, and the Minnesota Association of School Administrators have teamed up to call for education initiatives and to pressure the state legislature to act. This alliance of teachers, administrators, and school board members are calling for smaller class sizes and increased access to technology, all-day kindergarten statewide, and a full funding of the teacher development and evaluation law that was passed in 2011. The total cost of these three initiatives would be just over one billion dollars over the next two years yet they are hopeful as the state seems to be putting education as a priority.
While that is a very large sum of money, the coalition thinks that it is a possibility as it would only need an expansion of Governor Mark Dayton’s proposed budget to make it a reality. Dayton just proposed a revised budget plan and, like the first proposal, it places an emphasis on education spending.
In his new proposed budget, Governor Dayton calls for a $72 per student spending increase for all students in pre-K through high school as well as providing 5,000 more state grants for college students. He would also allocate $80 million each to the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. In all, Governor Dayton’s budget calls for $640 million in increased education spending.
Maybe the coalition of educators is looking at the $800 million that the state still owes its schools. As Governor Dayton’s plan stands, this money is not repaid until the 2016-17 biennium. Many feel that this money should be paid back immediately. If this is kept in place, that would be $1.4 billion to education spending.
That is not going to happen just as all three initiatives getting funded will not happen. It is a positive, though, that there is both a dialogue and growing support in the state government for increased education spending. Anything is better than noting and it appears that the state is moving in the right direction in regards to education spending.