Reporting Chris Simon
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – School may be out for the summer, but educators and parents are already anxiously looking ahead to the next two years, now that legislators approved the first big spending spree on education in ten years.
The atmosphere at the Minnesota Department of Education is notably optimistic. At nearly $16 billion, it’s the biggest chunk of the state’s budget, increasing spending by $485 million over current levels, with the $134 million set aside to fund all-day kindergarten for every public school in the state.
After a decade of cuts, Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said it is more than just good news.
“If you break that down you have a million kids, a $485 million investment, it’s about $485 per kid,” Cassellius said.
Starting this fall, all schools will see funding increases of 1.5 percent, followed next year by special education programs and all-day kindergarten, and then another 1.5 percent funding increase.
“The first thousand days of a child’s life matter, and so it is absolutely important for us to be able to make those early investments in children and their families through our pre-K investment, which is $40 million,” Cassellius said.
Starting the kids earlier reduces the amount of costly intervention later on, Cassellius added.
“If they are reading well by third grade, the data shows that most of those students will complete high school and go on to post-secondary education,” she said.
Cassellius said that as well as providing the first real increase in spending for schools in about a decade, the focal points — which include all day kindergarten next year — are aimed at getting kids to meet higher classroom expectations.
“So that students build those strong foundations, they learn their addition and subtraction, numbers and shapes, and just as importantly they know how to work in teams and groups and socialize in the classroom,” Cassellius said.
This way, parents should soon see a notable difference.
“This year coming up, we’ll have kids that are better prepared, so I am not spending so much time on intervention,” Cassellius said. “This is huge for teacher moral and closing achievement gaps.”