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DFL turns attention to special ed

ST. PAUL - Minnesota Senate Democrats have talked a lot about early-childhood education, but now say their first job is to fill a nearly $500 million gap in special education funding.

Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller. DFL-Minneapolis, said on Wednesday that special education funding is not in itself a priority, but the special ed gap drains money from other programs.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has recommended more special ed funding, but far short of the $500 million Democrats say is needed.

The basic problem is that the federal government mandates special education programs, but has not fully funded them.

Pogemiller's urgent call for more special education funding was an example of the spending line forming, Rep. Bernie Lieder, DFL-Crookston, said.

"You're going to see some of that happening," he said.

Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, said special education should be funded by the federal government. Federal officials are "spending money like drunk sailors" on other issues, Murphy said.

State Capitol Bureau reporter Mike Longaecker contributed to this story.

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.