The DFL-controlled legislature fulfilled its promise and provided unprecedented support for our schools and students after a decade of under-investment. The billions of additional dollars spent on education will help to reduce class sizes, address the opportunity gap, improve educational outcomes for all students, support teachers, and provide school districts with the ability to effectively manage their schools. The formula increase will help to address financial constraints on school budgets and provide flexibility for districts to allocate resources where they need them most, while tying the formula to inflation will provide districts with much-needed stability to plan for the future. For district-specific runs that show increases in education revenue streams, please click here for 2024 and here for 2025.
Universal School Meals
All public, private, and charter school students will receive a free breakfast and lunch while attending K-12 schools in Minnesota.
The federal government provided universal school meal funding through COVID relief legislation that has since expired. School districts were forced to notify students they were no longer eligible for free meals at the beginning of the current school year. According to Hunger Solutions Minnesota, one in four food-insecure students do not qualify for free and reduced-price lunches through the federal government’s USDA National School Lunch program. Minnesota’s free meals program aims to make up the gap for all students and provide relief to family budgets across the state, regardless of income.
According to the School Nutrition Association, “research shows school meals contribute to the health, attentiveness, behavior and academic success of students. Allowing all students to receive free meals ensures students have equal access to the benefits nutritious school meals while reducing program administrative costs.”
Universal school meals will provide $441 million to schools over the next two school years for free breakfast and lunch for all students. There are more than 800,000 students in Minnesota who will now be eligible for school meals at no cost to ensure all students are fed and prepared to learn. Providing nutritious meals at no cost will take financial pressure off parents, eliminate the stigma of food insecurity for students, and fully compensate schools for the costs of providing lunches and breakfasts for all.
Students will be eligible to receive school lunch and breakfast at no cost beginning in the next school year that begins Fall 2023.
Sustainable State Funding of our Schools
Our E-12 schools will receive a 4% increase in funding next school year ($268.8 million increase), 2% for the 2025 school year ($436.1 million increase), and link the basic education funding formula to inflation in subsequent years (forecasted at $1.3 billion increase in FY26-27). This will raise the per pupil formula from $6,863 in FY23 to $7,138 in FY24 and $7,281 in FY25. This unprecedented investment in our schools and students will provide stability for school budgets and will help to reduce class sizes, address the opportunity gap, support teachers, and improve achievement outcomes among all students.
Financially supporting our schools also means addressing uncompensated costs districts have shouldered for years. The new education finance package will reduce special education costs by providing $662.8 million in the next biennium in special education cross subsidy aid. This will result in a buydown of 44% of the cross subsidy in fiscal years 2024 through 2026 and 50% by 2027. This proposal represents the largest investment in special education services in a generation and will commit $821 million toward special education services by 2026-2027.
The education finance package also provides funding to support districts with uncompensated English language learner costs by providing $86.9 million in the next biennium and $171.8 million in subsequent years. School districts with higher concentrations of English language learner students have higher needs and will also be provided additional resources through changes to the funding formula for ELL students. By 2027, the state will commit $1,775 per student for ELL services to ensure Minnesota’s students are set for success.
Student Mental Health Investments
A new student support personnel aid program will ensure school districts are able to hire mental health experts for students, including school counselors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists, due to the unprecedented circumstances our students have been through and the expanded need for mental health support.
The DFL legislature secured $64.4 million for the next biennium and $117.7 million in FY26-27 for student support personnel aid to fund these critical mental health workers. By creating a new revenue stream, it will ensure future stability for mental health experts who serve in our schools and help to mitigate cuts to mental health services for students. These investments will provide a minimum per-student investment for many districts, and for smaller schools, a minimum of $40,000 to each district and $20,000 to charter schools.
Unemployment Insurance for Hourly School Employees
E-12 hourly school employees will finally be provided access to unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. Hourly school employees were banned from receiving benefits between school terms if there was a reasonable expectation their job would be available in the upcoming school year.
This inequitable treatment of hourly school workers has contributed to a shortage in qualified workers and made retention of hourly school employees from school year to school year more difficult. The agreed-upon legislation provides $135 million this upcoming school year for UI benefits during the current summer school break. The legislature will need to reassess the resulting use of unemployment benefits and provide ongoing funding based on future needs for subsequent summer breaks.
Voluntary prekindergarten (VPK) and school readiness plus (SRP) programs provide valuable instruction to income-eligible families to prepare children for success before they enter kindergarten. A rapid expansion of funding to school districts and charter schools will allow additional schools to incorporate a VPK/SRP program into their E-12 system, essentially as an additional grade level.
$31.7 million will be invested in voluntary prekindergarten and school readiness plus to make permanent the 4,000-seat expansion of VPK/SRP programs that were set to expire after the current school year. A $50 million appropriation will allow VPK/SRP seats to be expanded by 3,000 in fiscal year 2025 for a total of 10,160 seats and $149 million additional dollars in FY26-27 will expand VPK/SRP by an additional 5,200 ongoing seats for a total of 12,160 VPK seats.
These programs have been very popular with families, experience extensive waiting lists, and have additional districts requesting to participate; this additional funding will begin to address the surge in demand and ensure our youngest learners are prepared to learn and succeed in school.
Early Learning Scholarships
$252 million is provided for early learning scholarships for the next biennium with eligibility set at a household income less than or equal to 47 percent of the state median income, adjusted for family size. These resources will provide approximately 12,600 new scholarships to our youngest learners.
Eligibility is expanded to children in need of child protective services in addition to those already in foster care. It also expands eligibility for all children prior to kindergarten. Eligibility for children aged 0-2 is currently for priority populations only. Scholarships are currently focused on three- and four-year-old children but the program has seen significant growth since eligibility was expanded to two year olds.
Children from birth to age two are only eligible for an early learning scholarship if they are a younger sibling of a child with a scholarship and attending the same program, or have one of four priority statuses: child of a teen parent working towards GED or high school diploma, in foster care, in need of child protective services, or in a family who has experienced homelessness in the last 24 months.
According to data from Child Care Aware of Minnesota, in 2020 Minnesota had 23 childcare slots for infants and toddlers for every 100 children whose parents worked. This leaves many of Minnesota’s youngest and most vulnerable children without access to high quality early learning programs. Given what we know about brain development, scholarships should be eligible for children beginning at birth.
$20 million is provided next biennium to expand Head Start programming. Head Start programs promote children’s development through comprehensive services that support early learning, health, and family well-being and includes health, dental, and nutrition support, education, parent engagement, and social services including housing, medical insurance, heating and food assistance.
Library and Literacy Investments
A new school library aid program will provide support to districts to hire library media specialists and protect these vital employees in the event of future budget cuts. The legislature created a new school library aid program to provide $45 million next biennium or $16.11 per pupil to support school libraries. Districts will receive a minimum of $40,000 to support a school library media specialist, library equipment, and library IT needs.
Regional libraries are provided $8 million more through basic system support aid, which is tied in the future to the basic education formula. $1 million is provided for a grant program to increase the number of licensed library media specialists and multicounty, multitype library systems are provided an additional $1.4 million next biennium.
To further assist in improving students’ reading abilities, an unprecedented investment in literacy is provided through the READ Act. $74.6 million will support evidence-based literacy instruction with a focus on phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.
This initiative is a combination of the Governor’s Bold Literacy Initiative and the legislature’s READ Act proposal to promote evidence-based literacy instruction and provide teacher training on structured literacy. In addition to multiple grants for teacher training and professional development, districts will be provided $35 million for evidence-based literacy curriculum and instructional materials.
Increasing Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers
Approximately $60 million will go toward helping schools hire more teachers of color and American Indian teachers, encourage teachers to work in shortage areas, and increase early learning educators. These investments will increase the number of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) teachers in Minnesota by expanding the existing Grow Your Own program, and providing additional grants to recruit, mentor, and retain BIPOC teachers.
$37 million is appropriated for ‘Grow Your Own’ grant expansion to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of teachers by providing scholarships and stipends for paraprofessionals or other adults affiliated with the school to obtain teacher licensure. 37% of Minnesota’s student population is BIPOC but only 5% of Minnesota teachers identify as such. To close the opportunity gap, we must recruit, employ, and retain more BIPOC teachers who more closely reflect students’ ethnic, social, and cultural experiences, which will make it more likely students will engage in learning and succeed in the classroom.
Additional grants will help higher education institutions provide research-based support to teacher candidates of color and/or through direct financial assistance through scholarships or stipends to teacher candidates of color.
Menstrual Equity and Naloxone Funding
The education finance package provides $2 per student or $3.5 million in revenue for menstrual products to be provided to students free of charge, available in restrooms used by students in grades 4 through 12. Schools must also maintain a supply of two doses of opiate antagonists, also known as nasal naloxone, in the event of opioid overdoses.
By requiring schools to provide menstrual products and compensating districts for doing so, we will ensure students no longer have to worry and can be prepared to learn, without fear of being unable to obtain menstrual hygiene products during school.
This funding will also help to keep schools safer in the event of an opioid overdose by requiring schools to have naloxone on site to prevent drug overdoses.
Ethnic Studies Curriculum
Legislation passed to embed ethnic studies in Minnesota’s academic standards and World’s Best Workforce statutes that govern district’s strategic plans. The goal of the legislation is to provide culturally sustaining instruction to Minnesota’s increasingly diverse student body, while ensuring students receive an education that includes learning about a wider array of cultures and traditions.
All students deserve to see themselves – their own cultures, communities, and histories – within their education. When students see themselves and their communities reflected in their curriculum, they become more engaged in learning, they have a greater sense of belonging, and they achieve better educational results.
Beginning in 2026-2027, school districts must offer an ethnic studies course, which may fulfill a social studies, language arts, arts, math, or science credit if the course meets the applicable state academic standards.
Civics and Personal Finance Curriculum
Additional curriculum requirements will help students become engaged citizens and responsible with their money prior to graduating through required high school courses in civics and personal finance. High school students will be required to take a course for credit in civics in either 11th or 12th grade as a component of the current requirement to complete 3.5 credits in social studies, effective for freshman beginning in the 2024-25 school year. Freshman beginning in 2024-25 must also successfully complete a course for credit in personal finance in grades 10-12.
Non-exclusionary Discipline Reform
A disproportionate number of students of color are suspended, expelled, or otherwise excluded from classroom instruction in Minnesota; American Indian students are ten times more likely, Black students are eight times more likely, and students with disabilities are twice as likely.
New legislation will require schools to use non-exclusionary discipline policies and practices before dismissal proceedings are implemented. Alternative education services must be provided to a pupil who is suspended for more than five consecutive school days and administrators must allow a suspended pupil the opportunity to complete all schoolwork assigned during the period of suspension.
School board discipline policies must provide a discipline complaint procedure for any member of the school community to use to file a complaint regarding the application of discipline. The legislation limits the use of recess detention as punishment for student behavior, with exceptions for the likelihood of serious physical harm, parental consent, or the need to do so due to a student’s IEP. It also prohibits the use of seclusion on children from birth through grade 3 by September 1, 2024, with requirements to report any use of physical restraint to MDE.
The non-exclusionary discipline policies and procedures will provide model policies for districts so that suspensions and expulsions are utilized as a last resort, since dismissal has not been found to be effective in reducing misbehavior and can have far reaching negative consequences for schools and students.
DID NOT PASS
Tier 3 Teacher Licensure
Currently, a Tier 2 teacher license holder is eligible to obtain a Tier 3 license by holding a Bachelor’s degree, obtaining passing scores in content-specific issue areas and pedagogy, and must also complete one of the following: a teacher preparation program, an out-of-state prep program that includes student teaching, a portfolio in their licensure field, three years of experience at Tier 2, or an out-of-state teaching license with two years of experience.
Proposals in both the House and Senate omnibus education bills would have closed the three-year experience pathway and required future Tier 3 teacher candidates to complete a teacher preparation program prior to obtaining Tier 3 licensure. The final agreement did not include this proposal and current law maintains the ability for Tier 2 teachers to obtain a Tier 3 license with three years of experience teaching at Tier 2.