When it comes to education, Gov. Tim Walz wants Minnesota to be seen as a leader on a national level. The former educator, along with Mary Cathryn Ricker, Minnesota Department of Education commissioner, talked about their vision for the future of education and how the most recent legislative session fits into that vision during a recent conference call with media.

According to Ricker, the education bill that was approved during the 2019 session is a good starting point as the state continues to work to offer all of Minnesota’s students the best education that is possible.

Walz added the focus needs to be on providing the setting in which families want to send their students to the state’s schools as well as one that can attract young teachers who want to work in education in Minnesota.

At the end of the session the spending bill for education included new money for local school districts in two areas.

The first is an increase in the per pupil funding allocation, which will increase by 2 percent in the first year of the biennium with a second 2 percent increase in year two.

Funding estimates for area school districts were provided by the office of District 16 Sen. Gary Dahms of Redwood Falls. 

What follows is a list of estimated increases that would be in effect for area school districts in the first year:

• In the Redwood Area School District, the per pupil increase would be $190, with an increase in general education funding of $210,520.

• In the Cedar Mountain School District, the per pupil increase would be $258 with a total increase of $118,422.

• For the Milroy School District, the per pupil increase would be $224 with a total general education increase of $20,160.

• The Wabasso School District would see a $166 per pupil increase with a total general fund increase of $67,728.

General education funding is the most significant source of state aid for school districts. The total new estimate statewide is an investment of $388 million.

The second approved increase is in special education funding. Currently, school districts face challenges in meeting increasing costs to provide special education services to meet the federal special education requirements.

The challenge is that the commitment of funding from the federal government has never met what it has promised. That means school districts must cross subsidize using general education dollars to cover what the federal government is not. The legislature allocated $90.6 million to help address the cross subsidy challenges Minnesota’s school districts face.

In addition, the education budget:

• Invests $47 million in preschool programming across the state.

• Provides $30 million in safe school supplemental aid to ensure school safety.

• Increases funding to recruit and retain teachers of color and Indigenous teachers. A $3.1 million investment has been made to be used over the next four years.

In total, the state budget for the next two years calls for spending $20 billion on preschool through Grade 12. With a total state budget of just over $48 billion over the next two years, once can see the priority placed on P-12 education.

Walz said the education bill is an example of how legislators from both sides of the aisle can work together to find a good compromise that puts the students first.

“We have moved the needle,” said Walz, adding he is proud of the outcome, but said there is still a lot of work left to do.

- Photo courtesy of the Internet Public Domain