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K-12 Funding Compromise Approved by Minn. Gov. Mark Dayton in Special Session

Staving off a government shutdown that loomed in less than three weeks, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed a $42 million biennial budget on June 13 that closed the book on a special session triggered in large part by a disagreement over education spending.

The final K-12 budget approved by Dayton, a Democrat, allocates a $525 million increase for the state's public schools, instead of the $400 million increase state legislators sent to the governor in a budget that he vetoed in May. Previously, Dayton was holding out for an education funding boost in the $570 million range, and he said the additional $171 million he wanted (compared to what lawmakers initially approved) should be used for a statewide half-day prekindergarten program.

Control of Minnesota's legislature is divided: Republicans control the state House of Representatives, while members of Democratic-Farmer-Labor party (effectively the state branch of the Democratic Party) run the Senate. At one point before the special session started, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan weighed in with a letter urging Minnesota legislators to approve Dayton's plan for universal preschool

The Associated Press reported June 15 that while some of the finalized $525 million funding boost will go for early-learning programs, Dayton didn't get the state preschool program he wanted when the special session started. 

Dayton said after signing the special-session bills that "a sign of true compromise is that no one is happy with it," according to the AP, and added, "Last fall, Minnesota voters chose divided political leadership for our state. This legislative session ended in the same way: with legislators sharply divided over key issues."

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