Education budget, federal dollars, create equitable investments in Minnesota schools

Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota Legislature approved an education budget that includes the largest single increase in the per-pupil formula in 15 years, a meaningful step toward fully funding our public schools.  

The Minnesota Senate passed the budget bill Wednesday evening and the governor signed it hours later. The Minnesota House voted on it last week. It will increase state funding for preschools through high schools by $554.9 million over the next two years. 

The bump in state funding, along with one-time federal money for pandemic recovery, should protect most schools from devastating budget cuts and layoffs.  

Public schools will see a $462.9 million in new per-pupil aid over the biennium – a 2.45 percent increase the first year and 2 percent in the second.  

Educators and parents successfully blocked attempts to include private school vouchers in the deal. But Senate Republicans refused to raise taxes on the wealthiest few and corporations to give students smaller class sizes, more support services and greater access to mental health resources.
Here’s what’s included in the bill: 

  • $46.6 million to maintain 4,000 voluntary pre-K spots.
  • $16.7 million to help attract and retain more teachers of color.
  • $10 million for special education students.
  • $4 million for English language learners.
  • $1.8 million for non-exclusionary discipline and trauma-informed training to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.  

Here’s what didn’t make it into the bill:  

  • Funding for full-service community schools.
  • Paid training for education support professionals.
  • More money for student support staff.
  • Policies to increase worker voice. This means Tier 1 teachers are still prohibited from joining their bargaining unit and mandatory subjects of bargaining were not expanded to include issues like class sizes or staffing. 
  • Changes to state law allowing hourly school workers to access unemployment if needed during the summer months.

Even though the education bill did not contain several of Education Minnesota’s funding priorities, thankfully Gov. Walz included many of them in his plans for spending $132 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds. Included is increased spending on full-service community schools, layers of student support services, mentoring for new teachers, expanding non-exclusionary systems of discipline, and providing training in trauma-informed teaching for teachers and paraprofessionals. 

There’s also good news for student loan borrowers, essential workers and early learning advocates. State lawmakers passed the following legislation: 

  • The Student Loan Borrowers Bill of Rights to help regulate loan servicers and protect borrowers from unscrupulous practices that forces many to pay millions of dollars in unnecessary interest.
  • The Great Start for All Minnesotan Children Task Force, which will look at child care and early learning affordability for families and the workforce challenges that exist. The governor’s Children’s Cabinet is also directed to develop a report on how all early care and learning programs could be consolidated into a single agency.
  • A $250 million fund to provide relief to essential workers who were on the frontlines during the pandemic. 

Senate Republicans had proposed just $152 million in new funding for E-12 education at the beginning of the session, while House Democrats and the governor wanted $722 million and $750 million in new dollars, respectively.  

The Legislature finished its regular session May 17 but came back in a special session June 14 to finish the state’s two-year budget. 

2021-23 funding estimates 

NEW June 28: Per-pupil funding estimates for Fiscal Years 2022 and 2023 generated by the Minnesota House of Representatives Research division are now available to the public. These runs provide an estimate of new revenue based on the education omnibus conference bill agreed to by House and Senate committees this week. As a reminder, the fiscal year starts July 1, so you can think about FY22 as the 2021-22 school year and so on. 

A few key points about the runs:

  • These are funding ESTIMATES by district for Fiscal Year 2022 and 2023. Please note that actual funding will be generated by actual pupils each year. Because of enrollment losses tied to the pandemic, we anticipate that these numbers are on the conservative side and could increase as students return to our districts.
  • Enter the district number in the yellow box in the upper left-hand corner of the screen and the table will populate with projections by district.
  • The columns / cells of interest have been color-coded to make it a little easier to understand. There are four main “sections” to look at:
    • In green, you’ll see general education revenue
    • In blue, special education revenue
    • In gold, “other” categories of revenue (safe schools, concurrent enrollment, ECFE)
    • In orange, total new revenue from all categories of funding
  • The most important numbers to look at are the summary of year-over-year increases in each section of the spreadsheet. The spreadsheet shows the line items for each section comparing new money from the special session columns to a “base” number. “Base” year funding is the money a district could have anticipated getting if nothing changed during the session. A district might have written a budget based on these assumptions, so it can be instructive to see how much they are getting beyond what they had anticipated. We advise locals to look at the increases in total on a year-over-year basis because that’s what districts have to work with as their actual operating budgets.