The Republican majority in the Senate passed an insultingly low supplemental education budget bill this week that can be better described as a single budget line-item request. The bill provides $30 million for teacher literacy training but fails to address the range of challenges facing our students, parents, teachers, and schools. By contrast, the House DFL supplemental education budget proposes an additional $1.15 billion to help our schools.
With a $9.2 billion budget surplus, we should be investing in our youngest learners, addressing student mental health needs, paying the full cost of special education for districts, and tackling a teacher shortage. Instead, the education supplement spends 0.3% of the surplus on a privately held literacy instruction program.
While literacy is important, it is only a fraction of what our schools need and what education advocates are begging for us to support. Minnesota has one of the worst student-to-counsel ratios in the nation at a time when more students than ever before need mental health support. This bill provides no new funding for additional counselors, social, workers, psychologists, or nurses in our schools.
Special education and English language learning costs continue to increase for districts despite receiving no additional financial commitment to this instruction by the state. Early learning resources are a proven tool to get our children ready for kindergarten and help parents with childcare support. Thousands of our teachers are beleaguered after a long pandemic and are considering leaving the profession because they don’t feel supported—and this bill is proof of exactly that.
The Minnesota Senate must readjust its priorities and focus on the importance of education instead of passing tax breaks for the rich. We should be using the unprecedented budget surplus to support our students and hope a comprehensive supplemental education budget package comes back from conference committee. (SF 4113)