Just this morning, progressive leaders in the Senate announced their priorities for the 2015 session. The bills touch on the much needed areas of pre-K education, economic growth in Greater Minnesota, and free college education for graduating high school seniors.
Senate bill 1: Flood relief to 37 counties
The proposal to match the $6.7 million in funding from FEMA for counties affected by flooding last summer is, according to Sen. Vicki Jensen of Owatonna, a “top priority [that] those funds [be] available to the communities and the people who live there.”
Senate bill 2: High school seniors attend two-year MNSCU colleges for free
In an attempt to create more skilled workers, as that’s the most pressing issue for businesses in the state, lawmakers proposed making two-year vocational and community colleges free for high school seniors who graduate in Minnesota.
Senate bill 3: Loan forgiveness for doctors and dentists in Greater Minnesota
For those who live in Greater Minnesota, finding access to medical professionals can be a challenge. As an incentive for doctors and dentists to practice in Greater Minnesota, members of the Senate want to amp up the student loan forgiveness program that currently exists. The existing program is able to fund about 15 participants a year, with generally more than 100 applicants annually. Statistics show that after working in Greater Minnesota for the required three years per the program, more than 85 percent of physicians choose to stay.
Senate bill 4: Increased child protection
The proposal requires records of child abuse to be maintained for five years, instead of one year, as the law currently stands. It would also allow child protection agencies to perform more in-depth reviews of cases.
Senate bill 5: Linking high school students to careers
By getting students engaged with businesses in the state as early as possible, progressive legislators want to allocate funds so that businesses can pay students to work for them while still taking classes.
Senate bill 6: Free pre-school education for every 4-year-old
Minnesota has one of the nation’s worst achievement gaps between white students and students of color. Studies show that the ability to attend pre-school makes a dramatic difference later in life because students who have the advantage of learning before kindergarten are better prepared for the rest of their education careers. That’s why Governor Mark Dayton stressed the importance of early childhood education during the last legislative session. This morning’s proposal would provide more funding to pre-school programs, as half of kindergarteners per year aren’t prepared for kindergarten.
With the agenda set for the rest of the year, it’s clear that middle class families, children, and those in Greater Minnesota are the main priorities for our progressive leaders.