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Increased Funding and Requirements for Local Schools under DFL Education Bill

Minnesota House and Senate Democrats Unveil Education Budget Plans

The Minnesota House Democrats unveiled their education budget plan this week, which would connect school funding increases to the rate of inflation and contribute to the increasing cost of special education and English learner services. Meanwhile, Democrats in the Minnesota Senate are adopting a slightly different approach by providing schools with a larger budget boost over the next two years, but without committing to future inflationary increases. They would allocate more funds to pay for special education expenses incurred by school systems.

Key Points

  • The House education bill would raise general education spending by 4% in fiscal year 2024 and 2% in fiscal year 2025, prior to indexing upcoming appropriations to inflation.
  • The Senate’s proposal would boost funding for state schools by 4% in 2024 and 5% in 2025.
  • Democrats in both houses want to contribute to bridging the state’s significant special education services deficit, which is estimated to be $811 million.
  • The House Democrats’ proposal would close the deficit by 47.8% starting from the fiscal year 2024 and onward.
  • The Senate Democrats’ phased strategy would pay for 40% of the shortfall in 2024, 47.3% in 2025, and 60% in 2026 and beyond.
  • The two measures would also address a comparable, albeit much smaller, deficit for services for English language learners.

Gov. Tim Walz and legislative leaders reached an agreement to raise the state’s budget by nearly $17.9 billion over the next two years, including a $2.2 billion increase for education. This week, the DFL-controlled Legislature began releasing its spending bills. Before they adjourn on May 22, the House and Senate must resolve their differences on expenditures and policy.

“For twenty years, our institutions have received insufficient funding. While we can’t change that in a day or even in a biennium, Rep. Cheryl Youakim, DFL-Hopkins, head of the House Education Finance Committee, believes that this measure is a great place to start,” stated the report.

Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, claimed that the House education budget “could have generational impact.” She stated that school districts would no longer need to beg legislators for money to compensate for inflation.

According to the report, Education Commissioner Willie Jett told Mary Kunesh’s committee that they wanted the Senate to link future increases in education spending to inflation, just like the House bill does. Doing so would enable school districts to “more confidently budget and educators to more securely plan for the next year.”

Kirk Schneidawind, executive director of the Minnesota School Boards Association, stated in an interview that paying a portion of the shortfall for special education programs would also help free up funds for school districts.

Youakim vowed to battle for the funding provision linked to inflation to be incorporated into the final bill, but Kunesh expressed skepticism about that strategy. She claimed that tying future school funding increases to inflation would be expensive now and leave less money for urgent requirements. If economic conditions are unfavorable, it might also place the state in an uncomfortable situation in the future.

“If anything should go wrong, the fact that we already have this protection for education is fantastic for it. But what about the other expenses associated with conducting business and engaging in government in Minnesota? Education would really hurt all of those other committees and budgets,” the speaker said.

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