Senate DFL education plan grows larger

State Sen. Greg Clausen, left, and Sen. Chuck Wiger, right, at a news conference to highlight a package of DFL priority bills for education. Tim Pugmire/MPR News

Democrats in the Minnesota Senate are growing their list of education priorities for the 2015 session.

DFL lawmakers held a news conference today to highlight a package of bills, including the statewide pre-kindergarten plan that they rolled out a month ago.

The additional spending proposals are for child care tax credits, school facility and technology upgrades, free breakfasts, vision screenings, the hiring of more school counselors and opportunities for high school students to earn college credits.

Senate Education Committee Chair Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, said it’s too soon to know the cost of all the initiatives.

“Let’s hope that we can get $500 million,” Wiger said. “That’s what members of my division are going to shoot for. Last biennium we actually, if you take both years, we were able to go over $500 million. And the need is there in the classrooms.”

Wiger said an increase in the basic per-pupil funding formula for schools is also likely this session. But he said he wants to strategically target some priorities.

House Republicans are pushing for changes in teacher seniority and teacher licensing as their top education priority.

That’s not on the Senate DFL list, but Wiger said his committee will spend some time discussing the issues this session.