HomeTop StoriesFunding for Rochester Public Schools' P-TECH will be restored in the final...

Funding for Rochester Public Schools’ P-TECH will be restored in the final hours of the session

May 16—ROCHESTER — In the final hours of the legislative session, Rochester Public Schools received a much-earlier Christmas gift.

Negotiators before a joint House-Senate conference committee agreed to restore funding for a program that trains Rochester students to become certified practical nurses and information technologists while earning a high school diploma and a two-year college degree.

Funding uncertainty in St. Paul had jeopardized the program called P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School).

Funding for the program was cut last year under a barely noticed legislative provision that allowed for a competitive statewide grant process that included but was not limited to Rochester.

At the time, Rochester was the only district in the state to receive state funding for P-TECH. To keep the program running this year, Rochester officials relied on unspent funds from the pandemic.

Under the recent agreement, the RPS program will receive $971,000 for fiscal year 2025 – the starting amount – followed by appropriations of $500,000 in 2026 and $250,000 in 2027.

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Rochester Superintendent Kent Pekel said he was “thrilled” with the outcome.

“Our Rochester legislators came together on a bipartisan basis to support this innovative program that prepares students for success in two areas critical to Rochester’s future: nursing and information technology,” he said.

The distinction as the only P-TECH program to receive state funding reflected GOP Sen. Carla Nelson’s influence at the time as chair of a K-12 committee. Nelson had wanted to fund more P-TECHs across the state, but didn’t have the money.

Nelson, who is no longer a member of the K-12 committee, advocated keeping funding for Rochester P-TECH at its original level even as the program expanded to other districts. Nelson applauded the committee’s decision.

“As the original author of the legislation that funded Minnesota P-TECH, I could not stand by as recent versions of the P-TECH legislation were on the verge of completely undermining the foundation of the program,” Nelson said in a statement. “P-TECH is and must remain a program that transcends partisan rancor.”

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Nelson had been critical of a proposal from Sen. Liz Boldon that would have cut funding for P-TECH from the original $791,000 to $500,000 in 2025, to $250,000 in 2026 and to $50,000 in 2027. The idea, a Boldon aide said last week , The intention was to ensure a gradual “phasing out” of RPS funding, rather than a steep plunge. Nelson, a Republican, and Boldon, a DFLer, represent both districts in Rochester.

P-TECH is a partnership program that brings together RPS, Rochester Community Technical College, IBM and Mayo Clinic. Officials estimate the program will serve 165 students next fall.

The legislation means P-TECH will be scaled up in other school districts using seed and mentorship grants starting in 2026. Rochester is also eligible to apply for an additional $50,000 for its program.

“It will be in the mix, but it will be delayed a few years,” Jack Dudley, a legislative aide to Boldon, said of the competitive grant process.

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Boldon said she was proud to have raised $1.5 million for the Rochester P-TECH program.

“Our local P-TECH program has been an excellent model for how we can prepare our young Minnesotans for careers in STEM,” Boldon said.

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