In 2011, after the state’s longest government shutdown on record, Republican lawmakers borrowed $700 million from Minnesota’s schools in order to balance the budget. This left the state indebted $2.1 billion to Minnesota public schools.
Last legislative session, Governor Mark Dayton and the DFL-controlled legislature raised taxes on the rich to responsibly balance the budget and ensure that Minnesota is no longer on a roller coaster of budget deficits. Asking the richest few and big corporations to pay their fair share meant that Gov. Dayton and our progressive legislature finally repaid the debt owed to our schools by passing an education bill that increased education spending by $485 million. The centerpiece of the bill was a $134 million investment to fund a free all-day kindergarten option for families in every school district across Minnesota.
Democratic leaders in St. Paul have made education a top priority since taking the majority in both houses after the 2012 elections. Governor Dayton gave credit to these lawmakers for their efforts, stating:
“The DFL Legislature has made the investments necessary to give our kids the quality education they deserve—and the quality education our future depends on. All-day Kindergarten should have happened years ago; we’re catching up and we’re moving ahead. This is money well spent, and I think Minnesotans will know that and believe it.”
Republicans opposed the bill, claiming that paying for the education bill with higher taxes was not the solution. However, their “solution” is a continuing cycle of shifting money away from our schools to balance the budget. Governor Dayton commented that:
“More money for education doesn’t absolutely guarantee success, but less money for education absolutely guarantees failure. We’re not going to improve test scores, close the achievement gap, or get our kids ready for a very competitive world by reducing the investment in education.”
In the last two years, DFL legislators and Governor Dayton have fought to ensure that every student in Minnesota receives a quality education from the start and no student falls through the cracks.