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Dems Push All-Day Kindergarten, GOP Stokes Suburban-Urban Rivalry at Education Forum

Candidates from Burnsville and Eagan House and Senate Districts converged at Black Hawk Middle School for a Tuesday night forum.

Two weeks after Burnsville-Eagan's Senate and House candidates sparred at their first forum, the politicians were back at it—this time during a candidate forum on educational issues at Black Hawk Middle School.

Candidates from across Districts 51 and 57—which together cover much of Burnsville, Eagan, Apple Valley and Rosemount—converged at the event, held Tuesday night in front of an audience of more than 50 attendees. The bulk of the 90-minute event was dedicated to a question-and-answer session moderated by School District 196 representatives.

Here's a breakdown of many of the important points each Burnsville-Eagan candidate made during the wide-ranging discussion at the forum:

House District 51A

  • Incumbent Rep. Diane Anderson (R)
    Suburban schools have been unfairly treated by school funding formulas, which favor more urban districts in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Anderson said at the forum on Tuesday. At a time when the state already spends a significant portion of its budget on schools, the key to getting more funding for local students is to reverse the trend so formulas favor suburban districts, she said.

    When asked if she would consider raising taxes to increase education funding, Anderson said her goal would be to decrease spending without a tax hike. When the discussion turned to the statewide implementation of all-day kindergarten, Anderson deferred to her constituents, saying that she would make her decision based on community needs.
  • Challenger Sandra Masin (DFL)
    Masin came out hard against the current level of funding for Minnesota schools, calling it insufficient and blaming the state's handling of school funding for the growth in class sizes. But the candidate stopped short of saying she would pursue outright tax increases for education funding. Instead, Masin said the state needs to look at its priorities and fund its budget accordingly.

    On the subject of all-day kindergarten, Masin said she favored optional full-day kindergarten programs made more accessible by scholarship funding. She also advocated for the elimination of unfunded mandates from the federal government for Special Education to give states and school districts more flexibility.

Senate District 51

  • Challenger Jim Carlson (DFL)
    Carlson voiced support for a tax increase to boost education funding, saying: "The answer is that we need to have the people who have profited from our educational system put some money back in." Carlson was also staunchly in favor of statewide all-day kindergarten. Current all-day programs, Carlson said, favor those who can afford them. But the state should do what it can to level the playing field, he added.

    Though local legislators' options are limited when it comes to federal Special Education mandates and funding, Carlson said he would do what he can to press Democratic Congressional candidate Mike Obermueller to reform the system, if Obermueller is elected.

Incumbent Sen. Ted Daley (R)
When asked if he would support a tax increase to improve school funding, Daley said the state should focus on providing more funding to support teachers while reducing overhead in schools. Daley, who served on the Senate's Education Committee, pointed to the bill he authored mandating basic skills testing for teachers as evidence that he was concerned about teacher quality and its impact on education.

Like other legislators, he advocated for local control when it comes to any decisions about all-day kindergarten. Daley pointed toward job creation and economic growth as the solution for Special Education funding issues, saying: "We'll all do better when we all do better."

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