Members of Gov. Mark Dayton's administration vowed Wednesday to shrink the number of Minnesota students who don't graduate from high school.
Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon and Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius announced a goal to graduate nine out of every 10 students by 2020. According to figures tallied by the state Department of Education, 23 percent of public school students currently do not graduate from high school in the standard four years.
The goal, announced at an event at the Capitol Rotunda, is part of a collaborative effort among Minnesota and four other states to improve student achievement and get more students through high school. In Minnesota, the effort will be tied to proposals aimed at reducing the state's so-called "achievement gap" between white students and students of color. That's an area where Minnesota, while leading the nation in many markers of student achievement, perennially brings up the rear.
In his budget proposal released earlier this year, Dayton called for a $640 million state spending increase on K-12 and higher education programs. Much of that money is focused on shrinking the achievement gap: $119 million in what's called integration aid, which is money for schools with large minority populations; $44 million to better prepare students for kindergarten and $40 million for all-day kindergarten, which are seen as improving their academic performance later; and $4.5 million to establish regional centers with a mission to develop reforms that would help the state's most struggling schools improve.
"If we're going to meet our goal of achieving a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020, we must continue investing in our schools and opening doors of opportunity for every child," Cassellius said.
Dayton planned to release a revised budget proposal on Thursday, though he said at the end of last week he believes there's wide support for the additional money he wants to spend on education.
Some lawmakers have also introduced bills to alter state graduation standards aimed at getting diplomas more in reach for some students. Two Senate bills would address the issue by, among other things, establishing a state task force charged with coming up with legislative proposals to address differing graduation rates between different groups and setting alternate paths for students to graduate.