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Dayton: Education
By Karen Boothe
July 28, 1998
Click for audio RealAudio 2.0 14.4
Part of Election '98

MARK DAYTON SHARES THE SAME EDUCATION goal as his four DFL gubernatorial counterparts - he wants the state's public schools to be better. They all also agree it'll cost more money.

Dayton says the state is not investing enough in education. And he says the solution is for the state to provide 100 percent of the funding for K-12 education and eliminate the use of property taxes. But to do so, he's also proposing to expand the state sales tax. He's weathered some criticism for it, but even his critics acknowledge his honesty on the tax issue.

Dayton: In real inflation adjusted dollars, the state per-pupil formula has been half the rate of inflation during this decade. And we have shifted the burden onto the local property tax, so people see on their property tax statement an increase in funding for their local schools and think, "Ah, we are spending more money," when they don't realize that's mostly to make up the difference for what they've lost from the state. So, if we're going to put our practices where our beliefs are, we need to provide increased dollars for public education.
Dayton proposes expanding the school day far beyond any proposal from his challengers. He's proposing to keep schools open from seven in the morning to seven at night, seven days a week for remedial and enrichment programs. He says the state needs to give working parents the assurance that their kids are safe, supervised, and productive when school's out before the workday ends.

Like most of the Democratic candidates, Dayton opposes school vouchers. He calls them a Band-Aid to the crux of the problem in public education today. But he supports charter schools - schools run by teachers and parents, free from school district bureaucracy and often with specialized educational missions.

Dayton: Because there are kids for whom a smaller or different setting is going to be valuable. And the whole education policy ought to be dictated by what's best for the children. On the other hand, to say we're just going to hand out slips of paper and they're going to run around and get by and we're going to solve all the problems of education is just a lie, and it's really been a huge public disservice to the debate.
On issue of school testing and graduation standards Dayton is skeptical.
Dayton: I wouldn't support anything that this Department of Children, Families and Learning has done for the last four to eight years, because I think they've been - and this administration has been - terrible in it's bashing of public education and public school teachers.
Dayton says the quality of education must improve first, so that when students are tested, they do better. But Dayton says change must begin at the top of the administration.

Dayton says he wouldn't want to change the 1998 legislature's vote to abolish the state Board of Education. But if elected, he would appoint a commissioner of education who has classroom experience.