Home Minnesota Educator December-January 2023 Legislative session work will include major funding asks

Legislative session work will include major funding asks

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Wrenshall media specialist Chloe Swanson spoke about what investments her students need at a Nov. 10 press conference with other Education Minnesota members and President Denise Specht.

The 2023 Minnesota Legislature convenes Jan. 3, and with pro-public education majorities in both the House and Senate, Education Minnesota will be pushing them to pass the multi-billion-dollar investment in public schools needed to support educators, schools and students across the state.

With a projected budget surplus and 2023 being a funding year at the Capitol, Education Minnesota already held a press conference sharing initial ideas about what our schools need from the Legislature this session. Education Minnesota’s official legislative agenda will be released on our website, social media channels and in other communications this December after approved by the Governing Board.

Fully funding education will be at the core of the message to legislators.

“The learning and working conditions in Minnesota schools are not acceptable and educators are demanding better,” said President Denise Specht, at a press conference after the election, which can be found on Education Minnesota’s Facebook videos page. “This year saw huge engagement in the political process by educators all across the state because we have huge funding needs in public education.”

When Education Minnesota began talking about fully funding education in 2019, it was estimated then to require a $4.3 billion investment above what was currently spent on education.

“That was before the mental trauma the pandemic inflicted on our students. It was also before inflation started to rise two years ago, eliminating most of the per-pupil funding increases under Gov. Dayton and Gov. Walz’s first term,” said Specht. “Fully funding public education in Minnesota will mean a sustained, multi-billion-dollar increase in the money the state provides to its school districts.”

Educators know their working conditions and students’ learning conditions are impacted by the funding and policies determined at the Capitol.

“Every single thing we do every day in our classrooms, campuses, offices, buses and lunchrooms is in the political realm,” said Osseo math teacher and Education Minnesota Political Action Committee Chair Ternesha Burroughs, at the post-election press conference. “How many kids we have in our classes, curriculum purchases, the recruitment and retention of enough staff to properly run the building is all decided by the politicians in the state and federal Capitol buildings.”

Increased funding can help districts lower class sizes, increase mental health support staff and provide the tools for educators to do their jobs effectively.

“We need the resources so our students can be successful in their daily lives, both inside and outside of school,” said St. Cloud Education Association President Chris Erickson at the press conference.

A core part of Education Minnesota’s demands at the Capitol will be around getting necessary investments in educational support professionals. Districts across the state are struggling to hire and retain staff in these positions, especially after the pandemic. The Legislature can pass more funding for salary increases, policies around dedicated training and changes to allow hourly staff to be eligible for unemployment insurance in the summer.

“Our ESPs deserve a living wage,” said Catina Taylor, ESP chapter president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Education Support Professionals, at the press conference. “Our students deserve stability and to know who they are going to see in those positions next year.”

While Education Minnesota’s complete legislative agenda and bill language will be finalized in early December, Specht shared general topics and themes she knows will be included at the post-election press conference.

Those topics include:

  • The time and resources to give every student personal attention. Educators are overworked and understaffed at a time when students affected by the pandemic need more from their educators—not less.
  • Students and educators deserve healthy places to learn and work. That means fully staffed mental health teams and a sustainable balance between work and home. It also means roofs that don’t leak, functioning windows, heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer.
  • Every Minnesota student deserves a great educator. Schools across the state can’t staff up because they don’t provide enough compensation to recruit and retain educators, especially educators of color.
  • Pensions. Minnesota needs a program that will encourage educators to spend their careers in the classroom until retirement at a reasonable age. What we have now isn’t working.

How to stay informed, get involved this legislative session

This legislative session with pro-public education majorities in both the Senate and House means educators need to be involved with the legislative process now more than ever before. We can win what we, our students and our schools need if we hold elected officials accountable. Educators are the most effective advocates for public schools!

Share your story at a lobby day

Local union and intermediate organization lobby days can be scheduled through your union and IO leadership and Education Minnesota staff. We will be hosting several issue-based lobby days, in addition to local lobby days, which are open to all active members. Topics to be determined. More information will be available soon on our website on how to sign up.

Meet with legislators when they are back in their district

Watch your legislators’ schedules to see when they are in the district and if they are having any public meetings. Invite your local legislator to your school, campuses and classroom, in a safe way. The more they can see and hear about what is going on in their local schools, the more likely they might be to fight for what you need. If locals or members want to schedule a formal meeting with the legislator, contact your Education Minnesota field staff. Education Minnesota also plans to host regional meetings with legislators. Watch for more information about those meetings to be shared in emails and on our website and social media channels.

Raise your voice by testifying at a hearing

Committee hearings are a focal point of the legislative process at the Capitol and give educators the chance to share their stories and make their voices heard. Contact Education Minnesota’s lobby team at lobbyteam@edmn.org if you’re interested in testifying. The team can help you prepare your remarks and make sure you are where you need to be.

Read the Capitol Connection e-newsletter

Every Monday during the legislative session, Education Minnesota sends an e-newsletter called Capitol Connection to all members. Capitol Connection summarizes the most recent actions affecting public education at the Legislature, and looks ahead to upcoming issues, hearings and activities. If you’re a member and don’t receive Capitol Connection once the session begins, contact webmaster@edmn.org and put Capitol Connection in the subject line.

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