Dayton ups the ante on Ed spending, K-12 budget up 21% since 2008

Governor Mark Dayton

The education budget in Minnesota has had significant growth in the last five years, but the debate for more funding is as fierce as ever.

House Republicans want to increase the per pupil allocation from the state by 0.5% while Governor Dayton announced late yesterday that he was siding with Senate Democrats who want a 2% increase in per pupil spending.  The Governor’s budget had included a 1% per pupil increase up until yesterday.

These spending increases sound modest, but consider the larger Minnesota K-12 picture and 5-year trends:

2008-2009 2014-2015 Change
K-12 enrollment 823,234 837,154 1.7%
Annual All-funds K-12 expenditures (in billions) $8.2 $9.4 14.6%
Biennial General fund K-12 budget (in billions) $13.8 $16.7 21.0%
Number of teachers 52,969 54,054 2.0%
Free Reduced Lunch eligible 274,307 328,197 19.6%
Source: Mn Dept of Education & Mn Budget Office


The current Republican House proposal increases spending to $16.9 billion while the governor’s proposal is $17.4 billion, both include new allocations to expand PreK.  2008-2009 state funded PreK enrollment was 13,522, and it was 14,556 in 2014-2015.  The exact projected number of new PreK students who would need to be covered under new state spending is unknown.

Rep Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, who chairs the Education policy and finance conference committee, stated some desire to work with the Governor on his spending initiatives telling the Star Tribune yesterday, “I’d love to do it, but we have to get the budget to balance with the resources available.”  Loon has been a longtime supporter of expanding scholarships available to families who go through the Department of Health and Human Services “Parent Aware” rating system, but has expressed a lack of support for universal PreK.

With a nearly $2 billion surplus available to spend, and the Governor’s new embrace of the Senate’s 2% per pupil increase, it’s likely that Republicans will spend more of the surplus to pay for what they now call “E-12 Education.”