Increases to state spending for schools and early childhood education by $356 million over the next two years are being proposed by Democrats in the Minnesota Senate.
Sen. Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, said the $15.6 billion budget will include new money for special education, early childhood education and the general education formula. The biggest allotment of the new money will go to school districts to offer optional, all-day kindergarten, he said.
"We should not base going to kindergarten on your ZIP code or whether you can afford it. And now we have a patchwork quilt of opportunity. It should not be that way in our state," Wiger said.
The bill would also raise the age students can drop out of school from 16 to 17 years old. Senate Republicans criticized the plan for lowering student accountability standards and not giving school districts enough flexibility. They also say school districts should receive the new money regardless of whether they decide to offer all-day kindergarten.
"I don't have a problem with all-day K. I think that should be a local decision not a state mandate," Republican Sen. Sean Nienow said. "Give them the money, put it on the base and say we encourage you to do all-day K. But if that's not the need for your district, spend that money that meets your district's needs."
Two-thirds of the state's school districts currently offer all day kindergarten. The plan would also buy down a portion of the local property tax levies imposed by school districts.