The availability of all-day, every day kindergarten throughout Minnesota is step closer.
The state Senate passed a two-year, $15.7 billion education finance bill Thursday on a 35 to 28 vote that includes full funding for that early learning option in every district.
The bill also boosts state funding for preschool scholarships and increases the basic per pupil funding formula. Sen. Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, the chair of the Senate education committee, said the new investments are aimed at Minnesota's future.
"We're very pleased in targeting certain areas, that it's going to improve our ability to prepare students for college and careers, particularly all-day kindergarten. No student should be denied that opportunity based on their ZIP Code," Wiger said.
The bill increases spending over current levels by $356 million. In addition to more money for the per-pupil funding formula, the bill increases funds for special education.
But Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, criticized the bill for eliminating the current test high school students must pass to graduate.
"A student no longer has to pass a test, or get any score on a test, and a student doesn't have to demonstrate proficiency to graduate. What does that mean? It means your diploma is meaningless," Nienow said.
House Democrats also have passed an education bill with funding for all-day kindergarten.