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Minnesota education funding dispute forces layoff notices

ST. PAUL – Minnesota's education funding dispute means more than 800 state education workers will begin receiving layoff notices June 1.

Gov. Mark Dayton said he regrets the need to upset workers' lives, but state law requires that workers who could be laid off receive a month's advance notice, even though his education funding differences with lawmakers could be settled before July 1.

Democrat Dayton and Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt of Crown each said on Wednesday that a special legislative session to fix the funding quarrel, and consider non-education bills, almost certainly would not be called before the layoff notices are mailed.

Dayton said he would veto the bill providing education $17 billion over two years. The Legislature-passed bill funding early childhood to high school programs does not contain his priority, funding a half-day of school for 4-year-olds.

Minnesota Management and Budget says that without an education bill when the new fiscal year begins July 1, the Education Department will shut down and many school funds would not be available.

However, the state could go to court as it did during 2011 and 2005 partial government shutdowns and ask a judge to declare that some employees and some funds are critical to the state and that they be allowed to continue even without a bill.

Four hundred people work for the Education Department.

The Dayton administration says 300 workers at the state academies for the deaf and blind and 120 at the Perpich Center for Arts Education would be laid off without a signed education funding bill.

Also, the administration says that "major cuts" would be needed, including layoffs, at local schools if there is no legislation.

While the governor and legislative leaders have not predicted an extended education funding argument, the differences are deep and five months of a regular legislative session did not bridge them.

Plus, there may be different visions on other items that could come up during a special session. Those differences also could delay a special session start.

Daudt on Wednesday seemed to agree with Dayton on the need to call a special session to deal with education funding. The two also said a public works spending bill and legislation funding outdoors and culture projects should be considered.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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