Monday, May 20, 2013

"Free" all-day K!

Twin Cities media outlets are trumpeting a provision of the state education bill on its way to Gov. Mark Dayton with the headline "free all-day kindergarten."

Well, it is "free" — to everyone but the taxpayers.

We can debate the efficacy of early childhood education for all, but there still is no such thing as "free" all-day K, and it's actually worse than that. The Legislature's appropriation for all-day K doesn't fully fund it. The rest of the tab for "free" all-day K will fall on local school districts.

The DFL and the media will spin the $15.7 billion education funding bill as a windfall for "Minnesota's kids," but unfunded or partially-funded mandates like all-day K, anti-bullying programs, and special education are a hidden burden on local school district budgets. The Legislature is acting like a state school board that doesn't have to worry about how to pay for its lofty agenda. Yet as any weary school board member knows, the money has to come from somewhere.

The bill does fund urban (read: DFL) public school districts with over $13,000 per pupil, while rural (read: Republican) districts receive about $9,900 per pupil. If the Legislature and governor were more concerned with educational outcomes instead of the status quo, they would allow education funding to follow the student to the school that best meets his or her needs, and they would relieve our independent school districts of paying for mandates designed to help get the DFL reelected.

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