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Senate Republicans’ education plan: long on funding, short on new ideas

The Senate Republican plan would put $455 million of ‘no strings’ funding toward K-12 education. 

MinnPost file photo by James Nord
State Sen. Sean Nienow: “The Democratic plan … there’s lot’s of money involved but it’s not going into the classroom and the schools that your children currently have.”

Despite their criticism of Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal to spend almost $500 million dollars more on education this budget cycle, Minnesota Senate Republicans have just about matched the governor dollar-for-dollar with the education budget proposal they offered Tuesday.

There is a major difference in the two plans. While Dayton’s increase is earmarked for spending on pre-K education and adds to the per-pupil funding formula, the Senate plan comes with no strings attached.

“The Democratic plan … there’s lot’s of money involved but it’s not going into the classroom and the schools that your children currently have,” said Sen. Sean Nienow, the bill’s chief author.  “It’s going into all kind of new, mandated spending.”

The Senate Republican plan would put another $455 million into education over two years.  The plan would allocate the funding on a per-student basis, another point of differentiation from the Dayton plan, which would add to the state’s funding formula that apportions money differently based on the school district.  

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Senate DFL-ers have offered bills that are similar to the Dayton proposal. House Republicans have focused so far on reforming teacher tenure and licensing.

Senate minority leader David Hann acknowledged the limited scope of his caucus’s budget proposal. “We’re trying to make this complicated education finance system a little more straightforward,” Hann said.  “It’s not a prescription of, ‘Here’s how you solve this.’”

Hann had scathing words for the Dayton education plan when it was unveiled last month.   “Where is the education reform package?” he had asked.  “Where are the new ideas?”

When asked Tuesday about the whereabouts of the Republican new ideas, he and Nienow said there was more to come. “You will see some education proposals… something very significant, looking at Minneapolis and the significant problems we have there with graduation rates, with the achievement gap,” Nienow said. 

Nienow says Republicans will offer what will be “a nation-leading proposal.” Hann, its chief author, ducked the “nation leading” description, but said his plan is unlike anything he seen in other states with sizable achievement gaps.  

Senate Republicans will roll out that plan in the next few days, along with a few others, including a tax proposal, expected tomorrow, that is dubbed the “toddler tax,” an expansion of Dayton’s child care tax credit.