State leaders in town for education forum

Education Forum

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ALBERT LEA, Minn. — It was far from the most controversial bill Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed this year, but the new education funding law is already having a big impact on parents and students through things like funding for all-day kindergarten.

Leaders are going around the state to make sure everyone knows what is in store for them.

There were many things that area teachers liked about the changes to education in Minnesota.

“The all day, every day kindergarten is awesome. We’ve been doing that as a district out of our own pockets for quite a few years, so to have that paid for is going to be big for our district,” said Peggy Bennett, a 1st grade teacher at Sibley Elementary School.

Leaders also decided to pay back the approximately $800 million owed to schools from previous borrowing faster than originally planned.

“I appreciate so much how they’re giving some of this back that they borrowed from schools, we need that. So many things we get laid on us that we’re just supposed to do, but then we don’t get funding for it,” Bennett said.

Comments like those are just some of what Minnesota House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul is hearing as she travels around the state.

Tuesday’s discussion in Albert Lea also involved some help from State Rep. Shannon Savick, DFL-Wells.

“It’s important for us to come at and visit with the people of the state of Minnesota and tell them about what we did. We want them to know that we listened to them that education is important to them, we made it a priority for the budget cycle and we made a historic investment in education,” Murphy said.

Although many are pleased with what was done this session, they say it is still not enough.

“There’s a lot of work to do, our economy is changing in Minnesota and across the country and we have to make sure that our education is preparing students for the 21st century,” Murphy said.

That means preparing them for the jobs that come with the 21st century.

“We hear often from business owners that they have jobs, but they’re having trouble finding skilled workers to fill those jobs, which means we have to look back to the education system and make sure kids are getting the right kind of education for the jobs of the future,” Murphy said.

For teachers like Bennett, the changes she would like to see in education involve getting people interested in education.

“We value Hollywood, we value sports, we need to value education just as much. At the same time we can’t just throw money at education, it needs to be utilized well,” Bennett said.

Part of the new funding will give the Albert Lea school district an extra $792,661 to work with next fiscal year and nearly $2.1 million more for 2015.

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