A $15.7 billion education package that will "make life easier" for working parents, according to the bill's supporters, now awaits Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton's signature as work begins to wrap up on the 2013 Legislative Session.
The omnibus bill, which means one version of the bill was introduced in each chamber, was approved with small support from Republicans over the weekend, picking up five GOP votes in the state house and four more in the senate.
Sen. Ann Rest of New Hope was the lone "no" vote from the DFL (Democrat) side of the aisle in the senate, creating the 41-26 margin. In the House, the bill passed on a 78-56 vote. Rep. Connie Bernardy (DFL-Fridley) said the bill creates history with all-day kindergarten and a series of funding changes.
The bill raises the state's method of funding local schools by $156 per pupil for a total of nearly $235 million in new money over the next two years.
The bulk of that is spent on a new all-day, everyday kindergarten program funded at the state, with $134 million appropriated to a program that "will provide funding for districts that want or need it."
“The Governor and legislators made a significant investment in the children of the State of Minnesota and to a commitment that all students are career and college ready when they graduate. The most significant impact will be funding for all-day, every day kindergarten beginning in the Fall 2014,” St. Michael-Albertville Schools Superintendent James Behle said. “Every kindergarten child will have the opportunity to participate.”
The classroom space already exists for all day, every day kindergarten in the St. Michael-Albertville School District, according to Behle.
“We will spend the next months determining if the increase in state funding will cover all the costs or if we will need to find additional funding in the existing budget to support the program,” he said.
Here are some additonal items passed during the 2013 Minnesota Legislative Session and how they could impact the St. Michael-Albertville School District, according to an email to Patch from Superintendent Behle:
- From a policy perspective, the most significant change is the replacement of the GRAD exam with a nationally normed college entrance exam. If the ACT suite of assessments is used, students will not see a change since STMA students already take EXPLORE, PLAN and ACT.
- School funding increased in the basic formula 1.5% each of the next two years - $78 and $80 per pupil respectively. An additional $40 million will be allocated for special education and $10 million for career and technical education. However, the impact on STMA is not calculated. STMA will receive an additional $25,000 per year to fund security enhancements, anti-bullying initiatives or mental health services. The state aid shift will continue to be paid back.
- There are provisions for property tax relief; however, the benefits to each school district are undetermined at this time.
- In regard to policy changes, the compulsory attendance law increased from 16 to 17 years.
Districts, such as St. Michael-Albertville, are still reviewing possible bill changes to budget and policy items addressed during the 2013 Legislative session due to last minute negotiations over the weekend and passed Sunday, May 19.
Updated 8:43 a.m. May 22, 2013
Work will begin during the summer of 2013 on designing the full day program, according to Behle. The first step will entail designing a framework for the school board to review. After the framework, staff will work with teachers to design the program.
"So many details will need to be worked out," Behle wrote in an email to Patch. "However, I anticipate that the district will provide a half day option. The numbers of families interested in the half day option will determine how it is offered."