State Senate GOP wants no strings funding for schools

State Sen. Sean Nienow and other GOP lawmakers unveiled their plan to boost funding for schools without mandates. Tim Pugmire|MPR News

Republicans in the Minnesota Senate say they want more money going to public schools with fewer strings attached.

GOP senators unveiled an alternative education funding proposal today that they contend is better and smarter than the DFL approach. It would allocate about $455 million to schools over the next two years on an equal, per-pupil basis.

Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge described the plan as a “burst of funding” for school districts, with no mandates on how to spend it.

“If your school district wants to do pre -K, here’s the money. Go ahead and do it,” Nienow said. “If it doesn’t make sense for your district, then spend it on more teachers. Spend it on whatever makes sense for your district.”

Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, said the bill reflects a belief that education decisions are best made at the local level.

“This is the type of education financing that schools districts want, school districts need,” Pratt said.

Senate DFL leaders rolled out a package of education bills earlier this month that included statewide pre-kindergarten, child care tax credits, school facility upgrades, free breakfasts and the hiring of more school counselors.

Senate Education Chair Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, said at the time that he was hoping for a budget target this session of about $500 million.