Archived Story

Schools get a money boost

Published 10:58am Friday, May 24, 2013

St. Paul — Gov. Mark Dayton signed a $15.7 billion education budget bill Wednesday that boosts funding for public schools and early childhood education over the next two years.

Dayton credited lawmakers for passing the bill, and for passing a tax bill that raises $2 billion in new revenue. Dayton said Minnesota students were shortchanged for too long, and said the tax bill allows for a historic investment that will pay off for the entire state.

“More money for education doesn’t absolutely guarantee success, but less money for education absolutely guarantees failure,” Dayton said. “We’re not going to improve test scores, close the achievement gap, or get our kids ready for a very competitive world by reducing the investment in education.”

For the Fergus Falls School District, who will offer free all-day kindergarten for the first time next year, the bill will help make up the $130,000 the expanded program will cost, according to the district Business Manager Mark Masten.

The majority of that cost will be $80,000 in lost revenue from no longer charging families for enrollment. The rest will come from the increase in number of days teachers work, from three days a week to five. But with the new bill, Masten said he his hopeful the district will get most, if not all, that money back.

There was no shortage of hyperbole during a brief signing ceremony for the bill, which supporters claim will create the “world’s best workforce.” State Sen. Chuck Wiger, chair of the Senate Education Finance Committee, said the funding measure was a “grand slam” that will help turn the school financing tide of the past decade.

“This is the best education bill to be signed in Minnesota history,” said Wiger, DFL-Maplewood.


Comprising the biggest piece of the state budget, the bill increases education spending by $485 million over current levels. Its centerpiece is $134 million to fund a free all-day kindergarten option for families in every school district. Lawmakers also provided new money for early childhood education scholarships, special education programs and a 1.5 percent increase in the basic per-pupil formula each of the next two years.


The bill also puts in place a new system for measuring student achievement. It repeals the high-stakes tests that students are currently required to pass before high school graduation. Dayton said those tests have been “onerous” and “absurd.”


“There were kids who were denied diplomas and then found out half way through the summer that the testing company had made mistakes in their grading,” the governor said. “They were denied publicly in front of their family, in front of their friends, a diploma because of the errors of the company, and nothing was done about it. I’m for testing. I’m for accountability, but not past the point of absurdity, and that’s where we’ve gone.”


Republican lawmakers opposed the testing changes and also questioned the spending increase.


State Rep. Kelby Woodard, the lead Republican on the House K-12 Education Finance Committee, said he doesn’t believe that putting more money into the same old programs is the way to close persistent achievement gaps.


Woodard, R-Belle Plaine, also accused Democrats of using “empty slogans,” and overselling the potential impact of all-day kindergarten.


“There are many states that have kindergarten today, and they still struggle,” he said. “So, obviously that’s the basis for this idea that we’ll have the world’s best workforce in 2027, is that because we have kindergarten that all of a sudden all of the other ills in our education system go away. So, it’s being touted as a silver bullet, and it’s just not.”


Woodard said some school districts are pleased about the all-day kindergarten funding, but others would prefer using the money for different priorities. He said local school leaders should have been given more flexibility to use the funding as they see fit

By Tim Pugmire
MPR News — 91.5 FM

  • Walt Henry

    Doesn’t this mean more money in the economy of Fergus Falls and those other towns and cities with schools? It absolutely must unless those higher income individuals who will be paying for this will spend less in the City of Fergus Falls, which doesn’t seem likely to me as many of those extra dollars that will now go in taxes have actually gone for things not found within the local school district.

    • camobabe

      Larry/Walt, you must really have a low opinion for the intelligence of the people reading this article. Why else the talking down to us as though we are fourth graders with no ability to discern that the net affect of this raise in spending will be that some highly paid teachers and administrators will become even more highly paid, and more school employees will be added to the payroll, high salaries, expensive benefits, cadillac retirement plans attached for all to pay .

      • Walt Henry

        I’m somewhat surprised you now seem to understand that raising taxes for goods and services provided by our government can be a good thing so long as the money collected is not being used to support the economy. Most conservatives with their grade school understanding of economics don’t understand this. These “grade schoolers” seem to include some within the Chamber of Commerce and a few legislators from your area. Suppose we were to raise taxes on Mitt Romney. Would he buy fewer groceries or cars, take fewer vacations, tubed hamburger instead of steaks? Or would he take less money out of the economy (that means fewer jobs) and put fewer dollars in off shore bank accounts where it does America no good? We ARE all in this country together. BTW-some things might be true when the top tax rate is 95% but not true when the top effective rate is 15% or less. It is time, and Camilla you can join me in this, to educate the public on this point. Heck, I’d even support the Tea Party applications for tax exemptions if this was the kind of education they would undertake.

      • Richard Olson

        Alias Camilla, I’m beginning to wonder if at some time in your youth, you were mentally abused or pushed aside in favor of others you suspect were brighter or more intelligent. My question is based on the repeated; not just a few times, but many times over the past years where you accuse others of talking down to you.
        So as not to single yourself out, you include others as part of the subjugated or inferior group.

        An example is your response to Larry’s comment. There is absolutely nothing in Larry’s comment that can be construed as demeaning to you or anyone else. The fact that you interpret it that way may have more to do with your hatred of public employees, (teachers in particular). Which I find rather odd in as much as you claim to be a career retired Marine Corp (certainly a public employee) member.

        I can think of very few retirement packages more aptly called a “Cadillac Retirement Plan”, then retirement from the armed services. 20 years at half pay of your highest rank plus free health care.

        For instance, a smart young female age 18 could retire at 38 with half pay. If she watched her P’s and Q’s one would think such a formidable chick would have risen to at least an E7 or E8 over the term of 20 years. That amounts to quite a nice package. Especially when one considers that if said 38 year old female were to apply herself over the next 17 years she would qualify for another retirement from Social Security all courtesy of the American Taxpayer. Additionally, if those last 17 years were spent at an occupation as a free trade unionist, a third pension would be in order. Alas, some people prefer non-union employment, therefore, many must work well into their seventies or eighties at places like Wal-Mart with no pension, no health care, no benefits. But their satisfaction come by not paying union dues. I wonder how much medicine one can buy with that scant satisfaction?Of course one should not discount the intrinsic value of jealously.

        • Walt Henry

          Hey!!! If I work another 6 years and if my public employer continues to contribute to my public servant’s pension plan, I will receive, at age 66, $57.00 a month. Just want to be sure everyone knows I have a conflict of interest when the conversation concerns public employee pensions.

          • Richard Olson

            Hey Larry, somebody thought your Studebaker was a Cadillac. Poor eyesight, I suppose.

      • MichaelJ

        Where is the part about higher teacher pay? Oh of course, it doesn’t exist.

  • Elliot Dallavalle

    I wouldn’t believe anything Kelby Woodard says. He is one state rep that cannot tell the truth about anything. Consider him equal to Michelle Bachmann.

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