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Education budget targets could be life changing, if spent correctly

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SAINT PAUL, Minnesota. March 21, 2023 – The size of the budgets for education and other priorities released Tuesday could change the lives of Minnesota’s educators and students, but the budget for pension reform is much too small, said Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota. 

“There are parts of this budget agreement that could change the lives of students and educators and that’s worth celebrating, but it would also leave thousands of veteran educators behind. The proposed investment in pension reform is extremely disappointing,” Specht said. “We need to fix educator pensions to retain great educators who have no hope of a reasonable retirement in the current teacher pension system. Teaching in the 21st century takes too much out of educators to expect them to work until their late 60s. Veteran educators are barely holding on. If Minnesota can’t promise a good pension at a reasonable age, thousands of mid-career teachers are going to walk away. On behalf of Minnesota’s educators, I call on the governor and the leaders of the House and Senate to meet face-to-face with educators and present their plan for pension reform. This cannot wait.” 

Gov. Tim Walz and the leaders of the Minnesota House and Senate also announced a $2.2 billion budget for E-12 education. The figure, called a budget target, indicates how much the education committees can spend, but doesn’t necessarily prescribe how the committees can spend it. 

“The leaders of the DFL trifecta campaigned as champions of public education and they’ve made it one of their top priorities in their budget proposals,” Specht said. “This commitment is far larger than any GOP-controlled body has proposed and the money, if spent correctly, will change lives. However, it’s still not enough to cover decades of underfunding and historic inflation.” 

“With the leadership of the state unified around a multi-billion-dollar increase in spending on E-12 education, there should be no Minnesota school districts sending out pink slips or pleading poverty when their staff ask for fair wages at the bargaining table,” Specht said. “This budget agreement sends a clear signal that schools will have the resources to reduce class sizes, improve pay, provide mental health supports and provide the learning and working environments students and educators deserve.” 

Specht also noted that House Speaker Melissa Hortman said during a news conference that all three leaders were committed to tying the state’s financial commitment to its public schools to inflation.  

“An automatic inflation adjustment that would protect school budgets from both routine price increases and historic spikes, like those we’ve seen in the past three years, would be a legacy any leader could be proud of,” Specht said. “We look forward to collaborating with Minnesota’s lawmakers to make it happen. It would bring the sort of stability to school budgets that parents and educators have been demanding for years.” 

Specht praised the budget target of $650 million for higher education. “Unlike in the many years of divided government, the state of Minnesota has shown today that it values public education from preschool to the college campus,” Specht said. “It’s good to see and we will work to make sure the money is well spent.” 

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.

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