Minnesota Heads to Special Session Over Education Aid, Joining Washington St.

By Andrew Ujifusa — May 20, 2015 1 min read
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The Minnesota legislature is heading to a special session over education funding, after Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a spending bill on Tuesday that he said was inadequate. Dayton rejected a last-minute budget compromise proposed by lawmakers that represented a $25 million difference between what the governor and the legislature desired.

The North Star State becomes the second state this year, after Washington, to require a special session to reach a deal on how to spend money on public schools. (Check out my coworker Stephen Sawchuk’s blog post about a Seattle teachers’ strike that’s related to what’s going on in the Evergreen State’s special session.)

Earlier this week, Lillian Mongeau over at The Early Years blog outlined the Minnesota showdown between legislators and Dayton over the budget. As Mongeau explained, the budget Dayton ultimately decided to veto would have added $400 million to the state’s budget for public schools. Dayton, however, said that this amount was $171 million too little—the governor said the additional funds he wants should have been earmarked to create more slots for half-day preschool statewide.

The state operates on biennial budget cycles. If approved, Dayton’s plan would make Minnesota only the second state (as well as the District of Columbia) to offer and pay for universal preschool, with the District of Columbia also offering universal preschool.

On May 17, Dayton said that while he hoped to avoid a special session, he would “regret just as much” not preserving preschool for 40,000 students through the additional $171 million he wanted. See his comments on this issue in the video below:

Republicans control the state House of Representatives, while members of Democratic-Farmer-Labor party (effectively the state branch of the Democratic Party) run the Senate, although Dayton himself is a Democrat. Without a state education funding plan in place by July 1, when the current fiscal year runs out, schools couldn’t open. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan publicly urged lawmakers to adopt Dayton’s plan, but to no avail, at least not yet.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.