Students of all ages are settling into the classroom and this year will benefit from a number of improvements the Legislature led to passage this year.
Our K-12 students are receiving a historic funding investment which adds up to, on average, around $385 more per pupil in the five school districts that make up House District 8A (Battle Lake, Fergus Falls, Pelican Rapids, Perham and Rothsay).
The Legislature also made a $95 million investment in early learning initiatives, including scholarships and school readiness aid. This funding will be targeted to areas where it is needed most to help make the most of our tax dollars.
Improvements go much further than additional funding. The Legislature also implemented valuable reforms, including fewer mandated tests to increase classroom learning time and streamlining out-of-state teacher licensure reciprocity. The latter could be a big help to districts in Greater Minnesota that sometimes find it challenging to fill staff vacancies.
As with E-12 education, students were the focus throughout the process of enacting new higher education measures. The higher education funding package I authored as chairman of the Higher Education Committee includes a tuition freeze in 2016 and a 1-percent reduction in 2017 for two-year MNSCU schools. There also is a tuition freeze in 2017 for four-year schools. Funding also was increased for the State Grant Program, which helps students from low- and middle-income families gain access to a college education.
This year's reforms also make it easier for MnSCU students with an associate degree to continue their education in a bachelor's program in that field of study. New measures to promote student safety will bring uniform policy in responding to sexual harassment, sexual violence and sexual assault on campuses.
Best of luck to students and teachers this school year and, as always, I welcome your input.
Have a safe and happy Labor Day weekend.