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Educational investments are a top priority | Independent Review

The 2017-18 school year is starting — a good time to break down the K-12 funding increase enacted for the new biennium and note other important changes related to education in our state.

The K-12 package the Legislature brought to enactment earlier this year includes more than $1.3 billion in increased funding, adding 2 percent more to the per-pupil formula each of the next two years as requested by our school districts. This adds up to $484 million over-base spending, and $18.8 billion total.

Hutchinson will receive approximately $1.2 million in new funding the next two years, while Dassel-Cokato ($940,268), Litchfield ($684,838), Eden Valley-Watkins ($435,368) and ACGC ($359,773) are other examples of funding increases for area schools.

Important investments in early education programming such as pre-K scholarships and school readiness also were enacted. Included in this is an additional $50 million in one-time funding to allow districts to develop early learning programs that best fit the needs of their local students and families.

Numerous reform measures also have been implemented with the goal of attracting and keeping the best teachers in the classroom. A main feature overhauls our flawed teacher licensure system, following recommendations by the Office of the Legislative Auditor and the efforts of a bipartisan teacher licensing work group. Aspects of the old model were shown to be impeding teaching candidates, sometimes contributing to a teacher shortage in Greater Minnesota.

Recruitment and retention are key, especially in those areas with teacher shortages. A new Professional Educator License and Standards Board will work to eliminate some of the roadblocks, streamlining licensure and adding transparency to the process. The new tiered structure features stipulations to ensure we maintain our state’s high standards for teachers, and the board will closely monitor proper implementation and guideline adherence.

Good luck to students and educators alike this year. As a former history teacher, education is a top priority of mine at the capitol, and I look forward to continuing efforts to assist students and educators alike.

Rep. Dean Urdahl

R-Acton Township

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