The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

February 20, 2013

Dayton education plan draws scrutiny from legislators

ST. PAUL —  State lawmakers have begun scrutinizing Gov. Mark Dayton's spending plan for public education, the first piece of his budget proposal to be introduced in bill form.

During a House committee hearing Tuesday, state Rep. Paul Marquart, the chief sponsor of the bill mostly praised the governor's approach, which would provide more than $344 million proposed in new spending for public schools. But Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, also found some fault with it.

Marquart, chair of the House Education Finance Committee, told committee members that he's honored to be carrying the bill, because it lines up with many of the panel's goals.

"Does the author agree with all provisions in this bill? No," Marquart said. "But Governor Dayton's bill certainly moves the state in the right direction towards a better overall workforce, a better economy and is a great start I believe for this committee as we go to put together an omnibus bill that's going to benefit this entire state."

Marquart highlighted $44 million designated in the bill for early childhood education scholarships, which could benefit an estimated 10,000 children, and $40 Million for all-day kindergarten. He said those pre-school investments have proven track records of increasing student performance and closing the gap in standardized test scores between white students and students of color.

Additionally, the bill boosts the basic funding formula for all schools by $52 per student. It also would provide new money for special education, English language instruction and teacher evaluation programs.

Following the hearing, Marquart explained that his main disagreement with the governor's proposal is that it didn't include anything to try to equalize the funding disparity between property-poor school districts and property-rich districts.

"In the last 10 years, the disparity between the low and the high revenue districts has increased by 67 percent, and the governor's bill really does not address that issue," Marquart said. "So, that's an area of real focus that we're going to have to look at."

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