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VIEWPOINT: Education is Key Theme in Governor Dayton's Budget Proposal


Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton delivered his seventh State of the State Address last week to a joint legislative session of the House and Senate. The news headline catching various news stations and papers was that he fainted under the bright lights of the House of Representatives Chamber about 45 minutes into his speech, just before he was expected to be done. Thankfully, he recovered quickly and the next day he released his biennial budget proposal to the Legislature.

In the plan, he outlined an all-encompassing vision for improving the lives of all Minnesotans through middle class tax cuts, cutting red-tape to ensure government runs smoothly and protecting our precious lakes and waters for future generations.

After reviewing his plan, I was pleased to learn much of that vision is dedicated to education and investments to our children.

The governor reaffirmed his commitment to investing in all levels of education, from early childhood all the way through college. A 2 percent per pupil increase in K-12 education funding has been a key component of Dayton's proposal.

The increase would be stretched across this year and the next and has had past bipartisan support from the Legislature.

Additionally, the governor has proposed $2 million to give more schools the opportunity to partner with communities to offer health and dental clinics, mental health services, family resource centers, college access information and other family support services across the state. Funding voluntary pre-kindergarten has also been a topic of discussion in recent years at the Capitol.

Last year's investment in early education allowed 74 school districts across the state to offer voluntary preschool, but more than twice that many schools applied. This demonstrates our state's core value in and appreciation of early education. When we prioritize these investments in our children, we prioritize their future and our state's economic and social vitality. Voluntary pre-kindergarten offers numerous opportunities for Minnesota students and families. Having access to excellent and economical child care in Minnesota has been another concern for many in our community and state.

Minnesota has some of the highest child care costs in the country. Another piece of the governor's budget proposal would deliver tax credits to families not only to help with these costs, but to also provide additional child care options. Minnesota families deserve quality, affordable child care, and I'm glad the governor is highlighting this issue that has been hurting families for far too long. How to pay for college can also be a tough financial hardship for several families, especially when many incomes are not rising.

A large part of Dayton's plan to hold down college debt and help make college affordable is to secure additional funding in the state grant program. The governor's $62 million investment would increase grants for nearly 90,000 students statewide, ensuring they have the opportunity to save for retirement, buy a home and start a family post-graduation once they have started on their career path.

The governor's vision for a stronger state and successful future for Minnesotans is evident with his education budget proposals. I continue to wish him good health and look forward to working with him so everyone in our community and state has the opportunity to get ahead.