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In a strong display of bi-partisan support, the Minnesota House passed its E 12 Education Finance bill early today on a vote of 119 to 13.
Speaking shortly before the bill came to the House floor, Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher said, "More than any other bill this session, this bill represents our hopes, values and goals for Minnesota's children."
"This is the most balanced, comprehensive and far-reaching education bill to emerge from the House in well over a decade," said Representative Mindy Greiling, Chair of the House K 12 Finance Division. "Citizens across Minnesota made it very clear last fall that education should be our top priority, and passage today shows the House is serious about providing resources that will produce world-class students and nation leading schools."
The bill provides $13.947 billion in funding over the next two years, 9.4% over the previous biennium and 1.4% more than the Governor's proposal. It gives a 3% increase in each year of the biennium, both 2008 and 2009, $95 million for voluntary all-day Kindergarten, and $106 million to reduce the gap in unmet special education costs that have eaten into school's general funds. It provides $152 million for a combination of technology upgrades, innovation and reform proposals, gifted and talented programs and funding for school libraries. It also provides property tax relief using a combination of referendum and debt service equalization aid and funding for operating capital.
In order to align with the Senate education bill, components of the Early Childhood bill, including funding for ECFE, Head Start, School Readiness and other provisions were included to the bill.
"I've often said that investing in our youngest learners gives us the biggest bang for our buck," said Representative Nora Slawik, chair of the Early Childhood Finance Division. " For the first time in four years, we're moving forward for kids, rather than back. Working in concert with the K 12 system creates a natural progression for kids to move from early childhood to kindergarten, and lays a strong foundation for school success."
A strong emphasis on innovation, reform and accountability is apparent throughout the bill. E 12 Education Policy Chair Carlos Mariani pointed to several novel initiatives designed to reduce long-term special education needs, boost classroom rigor and provide additional opportunities for teachers to develop their professional skills.
" As the world continues to change, our students will be challenged as never before," said Mariani. "With additional focus on rigor, and greater attention to innovation and accountability, this bill takes great strides to ensure our children can succeed in a globally competitive world."
The chairs also lauded the $125 million for significant property tax relief within the bill.
"Our goals at the start of the session were clear," said Greiling. " We wanted to provide enough basic funding to give every child in Minnesota access to an excellent education, help narrow the achievement gap in Minnesota, encourage local innovation and reform and take some of the sting out of the property tax burden that has carried the weight of unpredictable state funding. Today, the House has delivered on each of those goals, taking steps to firmly cement Minnesota's status as an education leader."