Tuesday, Sept. 8, Gov. Dayton, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, and Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius welcomed students back to school at Brimhall Elementary in Roseville. More than 847,000 students are heading back to school across Minnesota, including 58,800 Kindergartners. For the second year, over 99.6 percent of those Kindergartners will attend school all-day, free of charge.
Thanks to a transformative investment made by Gov. Dayton and the 2013 Legislature, over 57,400 students attended free, all-day Kindergarten for the first time last year. In its first year of implementation in 2014, 99.6 percent of Kindergarteners attended school all-day. Before this investment, just 54 percent of Minnesota kids had access to all-day Kindergarten, and many families were forced to pay for all-day access – sometimes as much as $2,500 to $4,200. Thanks to free all-day Kindergarten these families are now saving thousands of dollars.
During the 2015 Legislative Session, Governor Dayton and the Legislature invested $525 million in preK-12 education. The following is a brief synopsis of those new investments.
New investments in early learning – Governor Dayton and the Legislature invested an additional $100 million in early learning initiatives aimed at narrowing achievement gaps and helping young learners prepare for success in school. Those initiatives included:
- Early learning scholarships – An additional $48 million was invested in early learning scholarships, bringing total funding to $104 million for FY2016-17. This will allow thousands of children to access early education and care. Also, $3.5 million was invested in the Parent Aware initiative, which will allow the Quality Rating System to continue and add providers.
- Expanding access to Head Start – Head Start promotes school readiness for low-income children by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional developments, and by providing families health, educational, nutritional, and other services. An additional $10 million was invested in Head Start last session, providing access to over 1,200 young learners.
- Community partnerships – An additional $4 million was invested in the Northside Achievement Zone and Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood. Both programs partner with families and communities to permanently close achievement gaps.
Investments in K-12 schools – Governor Dayton and the Legislature made important new investments in K-12 schools last session, including:
- More Funding for Every School – An additional $346 million was invested in K-12 schools, bringing the per pupil formula to $6,067 per pupil by 2017. This new funding will help ensure every child receives an excellent education, and the support they need to succeed in school.
- Helping Kids Read – The Minnesota Reading Corps provides tutors for students who are struggling with their literacy skills. Last session, Governor Dayton and the Legislature invested $3.5 million in the program, helping expand access to serve 2,500 more students.
- Reducing test time – Legislation passed last session reduced the amount of time students are required to spend on testing in school. Schools may now spend no more than 10 hours per school year testing students in grades 1 through 6 on district-wide or school-wide assessments. The limit is 11 hours for students in grades 7 through 12.
Improving school facilities – An additional $32 million was invested to help school districts provide important maintenance to classrooms and other school facilities.
- Helping American Indian Students – Governor Dayton and the Legislature invested $17.5 million this session for schools serving American Indian students, and Bureau of Indian Education schools. This new funding will help eligible schools develop plans to support academic achievement, decrease the dropout rate, and improve the school climate for American Indian students. It will benefit over 19,000 American Indian students.
- Supporting English language learners – There are over 68,000 Minnesota students for whom English is not their first language. In 2014, Governor Dayton and the Legislature extended the number of years schools can serve these students from 5 to 6 years. In 2015, the Governor and Legislature invested another $3 million to extend those services to a total of 7 years per student.