Summer is slipping away as we transition to fall with the celebration of Labor Day. As we move into the fall season, we need to be mindful that school starts again. Please be respectful of the school buses and be on the lookout for the increased number of children using the crosswalks on their way to and from school.
The current two-year state budget for K-12 education includes a funding increase of more than for Minnesota’s public schools. That is a 2-percent increase for each of the next two years.
Locally, those state dollars translate to about a $2.9 million increase for the Brainerd school district, for Aitkin ($549,202), Crosby-Ironton ($474,688), and Hill City ($155,733) and for McGregor ($264,372).
The Legislature continued to investment in early education programming like pre-K scholarships and school readiness programs for those children that need assistance in preparing for kindergarten. The legislature also directed some badly needed reforms to the teacher licensure system which has been replaced by a new Professional Educator License and Standards Board.
The new licensing model follows recommendations by the Office of the Legislative Auditor and the work of a bipartisan Teacher Licensing Work Group. It is designed to streamline the licensing process while adding transparency and upholding the high teaching standards we all expect in Minnesota.
The old licensure system was unnecessarily complicated and inefficient. To some extent, it was contributing to a teacher shortage in our state, particularly in smaller rural Minnesota school districts. The new tiered licensing system does not water down the high standards we demand in our state. It includes guidance that a school must confirm a teacher qualified at the higher level is not available before the district hires a candidate from a lesser qualified tier level.
For higher education, the Legislature authorized a $210 million increase over the last biennium. Students in our two-year colleges and four-year universities will receive a tuition freeze in the 2018-19 school year. A new academic program for students with intellectual disabilities has been created to provide opportunities to people who would not have had a chance before.
Lastly, we need to keep the people of south Texas and Louisiana in our thoughts and prayers as they recover from the severe damage caused by hurricane Harvey. Please be safe as we enjoy this last summer holiday.