Let’s set the stage for the 2022 legislative session.
- The legislative session begins this Monday, January 28.
- The legislature runs on a biennium – a two-year cycle – the two-year state budget was set last session. The legislature is not required to take any action this session.
- However, the state has a $7.7 billion surplus for the rest of the current biennium. As is typical, the Democrats want to spend the surplus on growing the economy and improving the lives of Minnesotans. The Republicans consider the surplus an overpayment of taxes and want to give it back to hard-working Minnesotans.
- The Governor released a supplemental budget this week. Although the House and Senate held press conferences this week to outline their priorities, the details won’t be available until early April.
There is a lot for education advocates to get excited about in the Governor’s and House’s education finance priorities, which invest heavily in K-12 education. However, Senator Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes), Chair of the Senate Education and Policy Committee, made it clear that the Senate is not interested in much new education spending this session.
Governor Tim Walz proposed a hefty $1.2 billion of additional spending for education in over 40 separate budget items. Some of the highlights include:
- Adds another 2% increase to the basic formula in the 2022-23 school year, for a total increase of 4.0%
- Reduces the cross-subsidies (the unfunded cost) in special education and English language (EL) learners by holding the cross subsidies at 2019 levels.
- Provides universal free school meals.
- Expands access to pre-K in a variety of delivery models.
- Allows children from birth to 3 years old to qualify for early learning scholarships.
- Funds various initiatives to recruit and retain teachers, focusing on increasing the number of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) teachers.
- Expands access to student mental health supports.
- Fully funds the statewide expansion of broadband access to all Minnesotans. (n the Governor’s economic opportunity budget proposal.)
You can see the complete education budget summary and this education budget summary with brief descriptions of each budget item.
House of Representatives
Representative Jim Davnie (DFL-Minneapolis), Chair of the House Education Finance Committee, spoke at a SEE meeting today. He said the House Democrats’ top priority this legislative session is public education. He said the focus is on fixing what is broken and claimed the state has the resources. Here are the areas the House will prioritize.
- Reducing the special education and the EL cross subsidies. He noted it would take an ongoing investment of $870 million to erase the two cross subsidies in a press conference.
- Addressing the mental health needs of both students and educators by increasing the number of support staff both in the classroom and in the training pipeline in fields such as social workers, counselors, and psychologists.
- Increasing equalization to make school levies more affordable in low-property wealth districts. (SEE’s top priority for the legislative session.)
Senator Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes), Chair of the Senate Finance and Policy Committee, outlined the Senate’s top priorities.
- Ensuring all students are proficient in reading by expanding access to the successful LETRS literacy training program for teachers.
- Supporting students’ mental health, particularly due to misuse or overuse of social media.
- Increasing parental choice, including a voucher program for private and religious schools.
The House’s priority of spending some of the state’s record surplus to fix glaring problems in education funding, especially increasing equalization aid, matches SEE’s priorities. We’ll talk more about all these issues as the session progresses.