We’ve made significant progress over the past two years by balancing our budget honestly and cutting taxes for middle class Minnesotans. Smart budgeting has also allowed us to make key investments in areas like job creation and infrastructure improvements. But the most significant investments were in education.
Before this legislative session began, our state had fallen to 47th in the nation in class sizes, we had dropped from 10th to 22nd in overall school funding, and worst of all, the previous legislative majority had borrowed $2.4 billion from our schools to paper over another budget deficit, rather than responsibly solving the problem.
As Minnesotans, we value high quality education. Our children deserve the best. That is why education was one of our top priorities this session. Our budget made historic investments in education from preschool to college, and set the goal of building the world’s best workforce.
New Funding for E-12 Education: We invested $525 million in Minnesota’s E-12 education system, providing needed funding for schools to reduce class sizes and boost student achievement.
Paying Back Our Schools: The previous legislature borrowed $2.4 billion from our K-12 schools. To make our schools whole again, our budget paid back the IOU in full.
All-Day, Every-Day Kindergarten: Every child will now have access to free, all-day, every-day kindergarten. This new measure will narrow our state’s achievement gap and help prepare every child for success in school and life.
Early Childhood Scholarships: Thousands more young learners will gain access to high-quality early learning in preschool and child care. This initiative will deliver a 16 to 1 return on investment, and prepare our kids for success in school and life.
Safe and Supportive Schools: Rather than worrying about being bullied, students should be spending their days learning, making friends, and thinking about their futures. Schools should be a place where all students feel safe and valued. The Safe and Supportive Schools Act strengthens the ability of local communities to create their own anti-bullying policies, provides a framework to protect all students from abusive behavior, supports staff in their efforts to prohibit bullying, and will support improved student achievement by providing a safe school environment.
Ensuring No Child Goes Hungry: Our students should have access to a nutritious lunch, regardless of family circumstances. We all know that going hungry without a hot lunch not only impacts a child's health, it negatively impacts that child’s ability to learn. Our budget increases funding for reduced price lunches, ensuring students won’t be turned away at the lunch line.
These investments took major steps forward in getting Minnesota back on the right track, and back as a top-ranked state in educational excellence. But there is more work to be done. We need to expand our early learning scholarship programs to make sure all of our three- and four-year olds are ready for kindergarten. Investments in our early learners have significant benefits for our students and our future economy.
Next week, I’ll provide an update on the work we did in the area of job creation and economic development. In the mean time, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or feedback for me. Thanks and I hope that you are having a great summer.