Conference committee agrees to spend $485 million more for schools, early ed

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(Stacks of amendments and budget bills are lined up for today’s House floor session. MPR Photo/Tom Scheck)

The Minnesota House and Senate are poised to vote on a budget bill that increases funding for K-12 schools and early childhood education after the education conference committee finished its work early Saturday morning.

The bill provides funding for statewide all-day-kindergarten, increases funding for special education and adds money to the per-pupil formula.

Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, says the bill also funds scholarships for low income children to enroll in early education programs. He said funding all-day-kindergarten and increasing funds for early childhood education should close the gap between Minnesota’s minority students and other students.

“The key is to close the achievement gap,” Marquart said. “The achievement gap in this state is a moral failure that we have at this point. And if we don’t address it, it’s going to severely impact our economy into the future.”

The House and Senate are expected to vote on the measure later today.

The Legislature is expected to meet late into the night, and then again tomorrow and Monday. The constitutional deadline for lawmakers to finish their work is midnight Monday.

Here are some of the specifics of the K-12 bill:

–increases funding for early childhood education and K-12 schools by $485 million

–provides funding for all-day kindergarten for all schools in the state ($130 million)

–provides a 1.5 percent increase on the per pupil formula (an increase of $234 million over the next two years)

–increases special education funding by $40 million