Gov. Mark Dayton has spent much of his six years in office building a legacy largely focused on increasing the funding and reach of the public school system, especially for the state’s youngest learners.
To cement that legacy, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor governor has to work his last two years in office with a House and Senate led by Republicans who often have different ideas on what is best for Minnesota’s public schools. Many of those ideas about education spending and policy have sparked past battles between Dayton and GOP lawmakers.
Among issues on the table this legislative session are which teachers get laid off when budgets get cut, how to license educators, how to keep schools accountable for the progress of their students, and school choice.
Legislators and the governor also need to agree on a budget in which education spending is one of the largest pieces. In the current two-year budget, $17 billion will be spent on education, about 41 percent of the total.
Republicans say they largely agree with Dayton and Democrats’ main objective of closing the state’s persistent achievement gap between students of color and their peers, but they often disagree on the best ways to make progress.
“I anticipate we will focus on what is best for students and what works,” said Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, who will chair the education division of the Senate Finance Committee. She acknowledged that closing academic gaps will be a top priority. “We’ve been talking about it for years; it’s time to do something about it.”