Forty percent of the state’s budget will be used to fund education. The measure passed the Senate by a vote of 35 to 28. It passed the House by a vote of 83 to 50.
This budget will spend $700 million more in the next two years for public education from pre-school through college.
One of the key components of the spending bill is earmarking all-day kindergarten in each school district in the state. The cost to fund all-day kindergarten is estimated to be more than $100 million, according to Minnesota Public Radio.
Is spending $100 million to fund all-day kindergarten worth the added cost?
“Twenty nine other states in the nation, including almost all of our neighbors, invest in all-day everyday kindergarten,” House Majority Leader Erin Murphy said. “Their young learners in those states are getting the full benefit of that educational preparation.”
However, there is no provision in the bill to pay back $854 million the state owes schools from previous budget balancing acts. This should be paid back. This kind of balancing act should never be allowed in future budget negotiating. Such action punishes districts that depend on state funding — which many outstate districts do — and places the burden on local taxpayers to make up any shortfall.
However, spending 40 percent of the state’s total budget over the next two years is a bit steep. Some would argue that funding needs to show more results in student testing. Yes, the Legislature is trying to do away with most standardized testing, but there must be some means of measuring student progress when spending such an enormous amount on education.
According to the University of Minnesota (using dated information from 2002) Minnesota ranked first in the nation in percentage of people 25 years old who completed high school — 92.2 percent. It ranked first in the country in proficiency of its 8th grade students in math in 2003, as measured by the National Assessment of Education Progress test.
While these somewhat dated figures lead one to believe that Minnesota is in a good position nationally, more and more educational quality is measured worldwide.
Spending vasts amounts of money on a smaller number of school-age children may backfire if the state’s aging population places more demands on future budgets.