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Walz signs historic labor and education bills into law, approves important step in teacher pension reform

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SAINT PAUL, Minnesota. May 24, 2023 – Gov. Tim Walz has signed into law historic budgets for education, labor and taxes that could provide sweeping improvements to the teaching and learning environments in Minnesota’s schools and campuses, and which pay for an important step toward true pension reform for Minnesota’s teachers, said Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota. 

“This is a life-changing package of funding and policy for the working conditions of educators and the learning environments of students – if the new money is spent correctly,” Specht said. “The pension improvements are small step toward fixing the inequities in our pension system, but our union will be back for better in 2024.” 

A provision in the tax bill would spend $97 million to enable most Minnesota teachers to retire with a full pension a year earlier by reducing the normal retirement age from 66 to 65 while increasing contributions from employers and employees. Additional details are available on the Education Minnesota website

Gov. Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic and House Speaker Melissa Hortman spoke at a bill-signing event on the Capitol steps on Wednesday morning. Specht said educators can take some credit for putting the governing coalition in place. 

“Educators and parents are celebrating today because of the efforts of thousands of educators, before and after Election Day, who advocated for public education and the people who deliver it,” Specht said. “Without the work of those educators, the elections could have turned out differently and our schools would have been facing defunding through vouchers, pay cuts for teachers, the destruction of unions, attacks on LGBTQ+ students, and restrictions on our students’ freedom to learn honest lessons of history.” 

Highlights of the new education budget includes $5.5 billion in new funding over the next four fiscal years and: 

  • An approximately 11 percent increase to the state’s financial support for E-12 public education in the first two-year budget and a 15 percent increase in the following two years. 
  • An increase to the state’s per-pupil formula of 4 percent in the first year of the budget and 2 percent in the second year of the next budget. 
  • An automatic inflationary increase to the state E-12 education budget of 2 percent to 3 percent each year starting in 2026. 
  • Cover 86 percent of the cost of the special education cross-subsidy, which has been one of most difficult challenges to local school budgets for decades. 
  • $64 million in the next biennium for more student support personnel to address shortages of counselors, psychologists, social workers, nurses and chemical dependency counselors in Minnesota schools. 
  • A one-time investment of $135 million to give hourly school workers, such as education support professionals, access to unemployment insurance during the summer.  
  • $60 million in the next biennium for the Increase Teachers of Color Act and millions more for teachers licensed to work with students with special needs. 
  • Full-service community schools would receive a $7.5 million boost for two years and then $5 million per year in the future.   

Highlights of the new labor law include: 

  • Expanding topics of bargaining to include staffing ratios in public schools. The bill doesn’t set a specific ratio of students to educators, but it does require a conversation during collective bargaining about how to meet students’ needs. 
  • Providing the same continuing contract and due process protections for early childhood and adult education teachers as K-12 teachers, which should lead to increased compensation and more professional respect for the teachers of districts’ youngest and oldest students. 
  • Permitting teachers with Tier 1 licenses to join the same bargaining unit as teachers with higher-tier licenses, making it more likely teachers with Tier 1 licenses will receive employer-paid professional development and higher compensation. 

Highlights of the new higher education budget include: 

  • A historic 12 percent increase in funding for Minnesota State’s two- and four-year higher education campuses.  
  • North Star Promise “last dollar” scholarships to pay all tuition and fees at Minnesota’s public colleges and universities for students with a household income under $80,000. 
  • Tuition freezes for current students at all Minnesota State colleges and universities.   
  • An additional $50 million in one-time money for campuses to shore up budgets and address ongoing structural deficits.   

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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