Education budget deal large enough to prevent and reverse layoffs, invests in increasing teachers of color
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ST. PAUL, Minnesota. June 23, 2021 – A tentative agreement on the state’s two-year education budget invests enough in public schools to roll back the recent rounds of layoffs and makes important investments in diversifying the state’s teaching corps, said Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota.
“This agreement contains the largest increase in the state’s main funding formula in many years, it makes smart investments in recruiting and training teachers of color and protects thousands of pre-K seats all over the state,” Specht said. “With this agreement, there’s no reason for class sizes to grow this fall because administrators laid off educators. It’s time to stop the pink slips and bring back the educators who have already been let go.”
According to the terms of the agreement released publicly Wednesday, the state will increase its spending on E-12 education by $555 million over the next two years. This is approximately $400 million above the budget target set by the Republican-controlled Senate but about $200 million lower than budget proposals from the DFL-controlled House and Gov. Tim Walz.
Specht said she was disappointed the agreement did not include other priorities and policies sought by the union, including dedicated training money for paraprofessionals; dedicated ongoing funding for counselors and other student support professionals; and providing early childhood and family education and adult basic education teachers coverage under continuing contract and tenure rights laws.
She said there’s still hope the Legislature will provide compensation to hourly school employees who missed paychecks while quarantining or waiting for COVID-19 test results to come back. A proposal to pay bonuses to essential workers may include those educators.
“Schools can’t operate without dedicated education support professionals and it’s incredibly discouraging when certain legislators refuse to acknowledge their contributions,” Specht said. “ESPs need continuing professional development and, at the very least, shouldn’t be punished for following the rules during the pandemic and staying home when they were at risk of passing the virus to students and other school staff members.”
The outlines of the education budget were revealed Tuesday with additional details presented Wednesday. The agreement will be final when the entire Legislature passes it into law in a few days. Specht said the union will now focus its advocacy on persuading Walz to use federal COVID-19 relief dollars in ways that benefit students hit hard by the pandemic, including funding for full-service community schools and increasing access to youth mental health services.
“The education deal doesn’t solve the long-term funding needs for public schools in Minnesota, so we’re asking for the governor to put a Band-Aid on some of the most serious issues facing students,” Specht said. “This isn’t what’s best for children. It’s not sustainable. But it is the best we can do until certain legislators stop prioritizing the wants of richest Minnesotans and largest corporations over the needs of working families and their children.”
About Education Minnesota
Education Minnesota is the voice for professional educators and students. Education Minnesota’s members include teachers and education support professionals in Minnesota’s public school districts, faculty members at Minnesota’s community and technical colleges and University of Minnesota campuses in Duluth and Crookston, retired educators and student teachers. Education Minnesota is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.