Dayton gives on pre-K plan but still no budget deal with GOP

ST. PAUL — Gov. Mark Dayton abandoned his priority plan for a new statewide pre-kindergarten program Friday but remained at odds with GOP lawmakers over the amount of new funding for public schools.

The education tussle is central to negotiations ahead of an anticipated special session to finish work on the next two-year budget. Without that and a couple other required bills, some parts of state government would close in July.

Dayton and House Speaker Kurt Daudt gave competing appraisals of where four days of private talks had left them, with the Republican legislator describing progress and the Democratic governor framing their status as a disappointment. Dayton told reporters he was upset by school funding offers he considered insufficient and teacher tenure policy demands he sees as unacceptable.

“I’ve given up on my version of pre-K and that’s a huge concession on my part to try to get this resolved, to try to get this wrapped up, to try to give 10,000 public employees that they’re going to have their jobs on July 1st,” Dayton said. “I’ve gone a long ways on this to accommodate their concerns.”

Daudt’s office maintains Republicans have moved the most since earlier in the year when they were recommending only $157 million in new preschool through high school spending.

A bill the Legislature passed last week, which Dayton vetoed, contained $400 million for those programs. The House GOP released an offer sheet that put $125 million more in the mix but called for changes to the “last-in, first-out” teacher layoff law.

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