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Governor pushes additional education funding

St. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton proposed spending an additional $609 million on public education initiatives Wednesday. The plan calls for a 2 percent increase in per pupil funding in each of the next two years, resulting in approximately $371 milli...

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Prairie Elementary teacher Karmel Holinka (left) works with some of her fourth-grade students on a reading assignment. (Tim Middagh /Daily Globe)

St. PAUL - Gov. Mark Dayton proposed spending an additional $609 million on public education initiatives Wednesday. The plan calls for a 2 percent increase in per pupil funding in each of the next two years, resulting in approximately $371 million of investment toward public schools.

Dayton said that although the state’s public schools are doing well academically, they still aren’t doing enough to close the achievement gap, in part because the state doesn’t spend enough on public education.

“This money is still just making up for what has been lost before; it’s not putting Minnesota even in the top 10 states in per pupil funding, it’s restoring some of what was lost in the previous decade,” he said. “The idea that this money isn’t needed and wouldn’t be well used by school districts all over Minnesota is not true.”

Under the proposed increases to the general education formula, Worthington public schools would get $2,052,624 in new funding for 2018 and 2019. District 518 Superintendent John Landgaard said the prospect of additional funding is “very exciting.”

“If we’re going to potentially receive additional funds with our continuing enrollment, it helps address our staffing needs, whether it's directly in the classroom or in other areas of our operations,” Landgaard said.

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All public schools would get a boost in funding over the next biennium, including Adrian ($277,378), Round Lake-Brewster ($191,905), Murray County ($386,351), Pipestone ($642,041), Jackson County ($649,699), Luverne ($658,237) and Windom ($593,320).

The governor’s agenda includes $62 million over four years to help schools pay off school bond levies. The funding is meant to offset the tax increases to those most affected, such as farmers, business owners and other property owners.

Worthington was not identified in the governor’s list of affected school districts, which includes schools that both passed and failed to pass school bond referendums.

The governor also plans to invest $84 million in the Child Care Assistance Program to expand access to child care. Area child care providers say southwest Minnesota child care is in a state of crisis, as they do not have enough resources, cannot find qualified employees and cannot provide for many underprivileged families.

The governor’s office states the funding will benefit 230 children between Nobles, Jackson, Pipestone, Rock, Cottonwood and Murray counties.  

The governor’s budget would invest $61 million in the Child Care Tax Credit, which he claims would help 95,000 Minnesota families afford quality childcare.

Early childhood education has been identified as a top priority by area leaders to boost economic growth. The governor’s plan includes $31 million toward the state’s Home Visiting Program, in which health care professionals visit high-risk parents to help them develop their parenting skills.

Minnesota Commissioner of Health Ed Ehlinger said the program benefits two generations, the child and the parent. However, the program has not been available to every county in the state until now.

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“Being successful in school doesn’t start in school, it starts at birth,” he said. “Right now, we can only serve 25 percent of high-risk mothers. With this, we will be able to provide home visiting to every teen mom across the state, regardless of where they live. We’re going to be able to expand what we already know works throughout the state.”

Under the governor’s proposal, Nobles County would be served by the program for the first time, with an estimated 42 families benefitting from the visits.


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Prairie Elementary teacher Karmel Holinka works with her fourth-grade students on a reading assignment. (Tim Middagh /Daily Globe)

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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