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Minnesota legislation designed to give students school options

ST. PAUL -- Legislation would provide options for some Minnesota students to get private school education. One bill is written to allow a Minnesotan or corporation to donate to a non-profit group that would provide scholarships to kindergarten th...

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Sen. Dave Senjem of Rochester, with fellow legislators and students, talks Monday, March 9, 2015, about legislation he sponsors to help establish private scholarships for students who want to attend classes at places other than their local public schools. FORUM NEWS SERVICE/Don Davis

ST. PAUL - Legislation would provide options for some Minnesota students to get private school education.

One bill is written to allow a Minnesotan or corporation to donate to a non-profit group that would provide scholarships to kindergarten through high school students whose families that meet income requirements (twice the income for free school lunches, or $103,000 annual income for a family of five). Donors would receive tax credits.
The second measure would let a family of a special education student deposit in a savings account special education and regular per-pupil funding a school district receives for the child. Money from the account could be withdrawn to pay for the student to attend classes somewhere other than the local public school.
In both cases, students could attend private schools.
Republicans who support the measures (just one Democrat is a sponsor of either bill) say they are giving parents who qualify for the programs the right to choose how their children are educated.
The scholarship bill would help narrow a gap between white and minority students, it supporters say.
“We have some situations in Minnesota that aren’t so good,” Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester said.
Added Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls: “It is good for Minnesota when we get people together to solve problems.”

Lee McGrath of the Opportunity for All Kids organization said about 10,000 students could benefit from the scholarship program.
School choice programs have not been popular among some lawmakers in recent years, especially with many Democrats opposing giving vouchers to families to change schools. However, Kresha said, he is optimistic.
“I think this is the year when we give change a chance,” he said.
Rep. Kelly Fenton, R-Woodbury, said the special education bill gives families the right to decide where students are educated, which she said is “putting parents in the drivers’ seat.”
Fenton said that her bill is modeled after ones in Florida and Arizona. The Arizona law has been so successful that state officials expanded it twice since it went on the books, she added.
Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said that a student’s public school may not be able to provide all resources to special education students, but a savings account may allow parents to afford to send students to schools that have needed programs.

Related Topics: EDUCATIONNONPROFITS
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