Governor Dayton’s budget proposal part 3: Education

An educated Minnesota is critical for the state’s economic success. Governor Dayton’s FY 2014-15 budget proposal demonstrates his vision for education in Minnesota as he invests nearly $600 million in additional resources for E-12 and higher education.

E-12 education. One of the Governor’s most significant proposals simplifies the primary funding stream for school districts and increases funding by $52 per pupil, a total increase of $118 million in FY 2014-15.

Under the Governor’s budget, $1.3 billion will be used in FY 2016-17 to reverse the remaining shifts in education funding. Under current law, any positive balance must be used to repay the school funding shifts used in recent years to balance the budget in the short term. The $1.3 billion positive balance for FY 2013-14 in the November 2012 Economic Forecast is also being used to repay the shift.

Special education. The Governor’s budget replaces the current special education formula with a new one in FY 2015 that will allocate funds to districts with the most need and boost overall funding by 13 percent in FY 2014-15.

Reducing educational disparities. Minnesota has one of the nation’s worst achievement gaps between its white students and its students of color. The Governor’s budget includes proposals for all children to have the opportunities to reach their full potential:

  • Funding for optional all-day kindergarten so more children are prepared to start school. This funding is expected to increase participation in free all-day kindergarten programs to 85 percent in FY 2015, up from only 49 percent in FY 2012.
  • Increased funding for districts with English language learner students from five to seven years to give these students a better chance to compete academically with native English speakers.

Early education. Children can get a head start on a successful school career if they have quality early childhood education. The Governor recognizes this by investing in access to early education for low-income families.

  • An additional $44 million in FY 2014-15 for the Early Learning Scholarship program, which provides scholarships for high-needs children ages three to five to participate in early learning opportunities including high-quality child care and early childhood programs.
  • Increased funding to improve reimbursement rates to high-quality child care providers, improving access to this opportunity for more than 2,000 children.

Unfortunately, the Governor’s budget does not include additional funds to help the more than 6,000 working families currently on the waiting list for child care assistance.

Higher education. The Governor increases funding by $80 million over the biennium for financial aid through the state grant program. Grants will increase by up to $1,400 to more accurately reflect higher education costs, with about 5,000 additional students becoming eligible for financial aid, in part due to adjustments to expected contribution amounts.

The Governor also enhances funding for an American Indian scholarship program to enable the 500 college students currently on the waiting list to receive up to $4,000 in financial aid for undergraduate students and $6,000 for graduate students.

MnSCU. The Governor increases investments in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system with more support for various skill-building programs and retaining high-quality faculty and staff, a total increase of $80 million in FY 2014-15.

University of Minnesota. The Governor sets aside $80 million in additional funds for the University of Minnesota pending a review of its administrative budget increases. He will make a final decision on these funds after the February economic forecast comes out.

Even with these investments in higher education, state funding remains barely above levels from 12 years ago – and with no increases to respond to inflation or the enrollment growth of more than 38,000 students from 2002 to 2011.

The Governor’s education proposals represent important steps toward investing in Minnesota’s future. Increasing access to educational opportunities for all Minnesotans should be a high priority for the state.

-Caitlin Biegler

About Clark Biegler

Clark Biegler is the Minnesota Budget Project’s policy analyst. She researches and writes about state tax and budget issues. Clark holds a Master of Public Policy degree from George Washington University in Washington, DC; and a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Health from Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. She interned at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute in Washington, DC, Third Way in Washington, DC, Lutheran Social Services, and the Alabama State Office of Primary Care and Rural Health.
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