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Local kids could benefit from Dayton plan

Area school districts and children would get an added boost if Gov. Mark Dayton's budget increase for education is approved.

The Brainerd School District would see an increase of $3,831,632 for 2018-2019, according to data provided by Dayton's office. Aitkin would get $659,252, Crosby—$611,308, Pillager—$590,987, Staples-Motley—$659,088 and Verndale—$297,092. The figures account for a 2 percent per-pupil funding increase, as well as additional special education funding.

Dayton also wanted to spend an extra $31 million on the Minnesota Department of Health's home visit program, which provides in-person parenting guidance to disadvantaged teen mothers and fathers. Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger said Wednesday the current situation allows about a quarter of the high-risk families in the state to receive visits under the program, because of requirements attached to federal funding. Several counties can't get any visits at all due to lack of funding, but if Dayton's package was approved, the state health department would be able to care for every mother under the age of 20 in the entire state, regardless of which county they live in, Ehlinger said.

"This is what's really nice about this, we'll be able to expand what we know works, throughout the state," he said.

For example, state officials estimate Crow Wing County, which right now doesn't receive any visits, would be able to receive visits to 56 families if Dayton's funding increase becomes law. Aitkin County would get three family visits, up from zero. An additional 24 families would be served in Todd County, bringing the total up to 35. Twenty more families in Morrison County would be served, bringing the total to 31.

In addition, Dayton's proposal would expand the Child Care Assistance Program by $84 million. The Department of Human Services program covers child care bills for kids 12 and younger, and for special needs kids to age 14. State officials projected 478 kids in Crow Wing County would benefit from the added spending, 86 in Aitkin County, 122 in Mille Lacs County, 33 in Todd County and 100 in Morrison County.

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