Friday, February 20, 2009

Investing in students, Senate joins in cuts

Lawmakers learn about smart investments in Minnesota's students
The Senate E-12 Education Budget and Policy Division met yesterday to hear a report about smart investments in Minnesota's students from Growth and Justice Minnesota. Dr. Angie Eilers, with Growth and Justice Minnesota, said the education goal for Minnesota is to increase by 50 percent the rate of students who finish post-secondary education by 2020. Eilers said that in order to do this, Minnesota needs to invest in goals for certain grade levels. She said, all third graders have to read at or above their grade level, all eighth graders need to pass Algebra I by the end of eighth grade, all high-school students must be prepared for post-secondary education upon graduation and students who are qualified to enroll in post-secondary education begin within three years of graduating from high school.

Eilers went on to say that of the students who go on to post-secondary education, 34 percent are spending at least one year on remediation. She said this is costing both the state and students unnecessary amounts of money, therefore the state needs to invest more in K-12 education so that remediation is not needed.

Eilers also spoke of the program Admission Possible. Through Admission Possible, she said, Americorps volunteers recognize C-average students in the ninth grade who don't see themselves attending college. Volunteers mentor and tutor the students throughout tenth and eleventh grade to prepare and encourage the students to attend college, she said. Eilers said Admission Possible students have a 99 percent acceptance rate to post-secondary institutions and an 80 percent graduation rate.

Senate announces cost saving measures
Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, announced yesterday as chair of the Rules and Administration Committee, several initiatives designed to cut the Senate budget. Effective immediately, the Senate has frozen wages and promotions for employees, and allowed any member of the Senate to cut their salary simply by submitting a written request. In addition, the Senate is imposing a hiring freeze for the remainder of this year.

Sen. Pogemmiler said, "These are common-sense measures to show the public that we are taking the budget deficit seriously and we will be sharing in the pain." Michele Kelm-Helgen, executive director for the Rules Committee, briefed members on the steps that have already been taken to reduce the Senate budget. Kelm-Helgen said the Senate reduced it's budget by $710,000, or three percent, last year and that December's unallotment process in December further reduced the budget by $800,000. She said a total of 24 positions have been either eliminated or unfilled.

"It’s important the public knows that we’re in this together," said Sen. Pogemiller. "We have been and will be committed to ensuring we do our part in solving the state’s $5 billion budget shortfall."

At the Capitol:
Legislative schedules are available for the House and Senate.

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