As a former teacher, coach, and principal, I know how hard our educators work every day to provide the best education possible for our students. However, meeting students’ needs starts with stable funding that our schools can rely on. We also know that postsecondary education is critical to keeping pace with today’s changing workforce.
That’s why I was pleased that Governor Walz, as a former educator, is intent on making Minnesota the “Education State.” Governor Walz recently shared his revised budget plan for Minnesota. The new proposal is based on the February state economic forecast, which revealed a significant reduction in the state’s expected budget surplus. Budget experts in Minnesota say the balance declined by a third from the previous forecast, which was released in early December. But even with a decline in our budget surplus, Governor Walz remains committed to education and did not reduce education investment. Rather, he made historic investments in education with $718 million in pre-K through grade 12 education funding over the next two years and $159 million in additional funding to support Minnesota’s higher education system, including $47 million in grants to students, while maintaining $150 million in bonding for the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State campuses.
The Governor’s budget will increase the general education basic formula by 3 percent in the first year of the biennium and 2 percent in the second. The general funding formula is the biggest source of state aid to schools in Minnesota. It provides reliable, flexible funding that allows schools to make local decisions to best meet the needs of their students.
Governor Walz also has a plan to prevent special education costs from rising. Because special education is currently underfunded by the federal government, school districts have had to take money from their general funds to cover special education services. This reallocation of funds is called the special education cross subsidy. The average cross subsidy for Minnesota school districts is a whopping $820 per student. By investing $91 million in special education, the Governor’s budget stops the current gap from growing and stabilizes school districts’ budgets.
With college out of reach for too many Minnesotans, we must prioritize programs to increase affordability and access to higher education and training. Governor Walz’s supplemental budget provides $159 million in additional funding to support Minnesota’s higher education system, including $47 million in grants to students. This is a $25.1 million increase over his previous budget recommendations that were made before the February forecast which indicated a downturn in the revenue collections. This important commitment to our higher education system will make higher education more affordable to more students.
Governor Walz’s budget also provides a 4.5 percent increase in base appropriations for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. Our four-year, two-year, and technical colleges play a huge role in career and technical education – which is helping to meet the changing workforce needs.
In addition, the Walz budget supports education, research, and outreach at the University of Minnesota with a 3.9 percent increase in base appropriation. These funds will help the university meet their mission of research, teaching, and public service at all five University of Minnesota campuses.
The State Grant Program provides financial aid for students from low-income and middle-class families. More than 81,000 current grant recipients will receive an average grant increase of $285 in the first year to help cover tuition and living expenses. Over the two-year biennium, 4,460 new grant recipients will become eligible for college cost assistance.
I am pleased the Governor is prioritizing education in his budget recommendations. I think most Minnesotans agree that investing in our children is an investment for our future. As a former educator, I’ve seen first-hand the importance of providing a stable education for our children, and Governor Walz shares my desire to ensure all Minnesota children receive the best education possible.
As always, I welcome your input on issues before the legislature. Please reach out to me with your comments and suggestions on this issue and any others that I may be able to help you with. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-4120 or by email at email@example.com. You can also mail letters or stop by for a visit in the Minnesota Senate Building, Room 2233, right across the street from the Capitol.