As summer fades, parents, teachers, and students are settling into another school year. Although parents are likely more concerned with school supplies and bus times, rather than state policy, I thought we should reflect on the bipartisan education plan passed this session.
Classroom-Focused Education Spending
Parents and teachers should be pleased with the historic investments to our schools. The bipartisan bill, which was signed into law in June, gives $525 million more to our schools. Our plan allocates more money to classrooms, including a two percent increase on the school funding formula over the next two years. The additional per-pupil assistance allows schools the flexibility to use this money as they see fit – whether to hire more teachers, decrease class size, or offer additional extra-curricular programs.
Furthermore, our bill assists our youngest learners through targeted pre-kindergarten, school readiness programs, and early learning scholarships. This plan gives $95 million to these programs, helping to shrink the achievement gap in our state. The early learning funding in this bill provides a foundation of education and learning for our young students.
As we know, funding alone is not enough to improve our schools. Meaningful reforms – including changes to teacher licensure that allows districts to hire quality teachers from different states, and increasing classroom learning through decreased standardized tests – provide our students with more opportunity to grow. I’m proud of the funding and reforms put in place this session, and look forward to what we can continue to accomplish in 2016.
Recently, I had the opportunity to tour the state with the House Agriculture Finance and House Agriculture Policy Committees. We toured a biodiesel facility, visited Jennie-O Turkey in Faribault, and spoke with numerous farmers across the state. Growing up on a farm, this trip reminded me of the hard work and dedication of Minnesota’s agriculture workers.
The Agriculture Finance Committee met in early September to discuss the avian flu crisis. We heard from farmers, scientists, and industry experts regarding possible solutions to mitigate the spread and quicken the response time to similar emergencies. This is a severe crisis and one we aim to avoid in the future.
Bonding Tour Stops in Rochester
Last week, the House Capital Investment Committee stopped in Rochester as part of their bonding tour. The committee’s tour allows members to visit projects under consideration for next session’s bonding bill. Currently, there are over $3 billion in requests while about a quarter of those will receive funding. I met the tour at the Rochester International Airport which is seeking upgrades to its customs facilities. The federal government mandates improvements to customs facilities in order for airports to maintain an “international” designation.
We also visited Rochester Community and Technical College to discuss the demolition and reuse of a 60-year-old section of the main campus and construction of a new 20,000-square-foot structure. This regional institution is a vital part of ensuring that workforce and college education are attainable and affordable.