The Potluck

Legislators release full education budget bill

By: - June 24, 2021 1:21 pm

The Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul as the sun sets on Election Day, November 3, 2020. Photo by Tony Webster.

Lawmakers met Thursday morning to discuss details of the newly released education budget bill, after reaching an agreement earlier this week.

The agreement announced Tuesday covered funding levels and included some policy changes, and the full education spending bill was posted Wednesday evening. Negotiations on the budget came down to the wire, with less than a week for lawmakers to vote on the bill — and a handful of others — before the June 30 deadline or risk sending the state government into a shutdown.

New spending in the final bill exceeded the $525 million target set by Gov. TIm Walz and legislative leaders during the regular session, House Education Finance Chair Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis, told legislators Thursday. The budget was adjusted to $544 million above the base, Davnie said.

The total state education budget will be nearly $21 billion for the next two years, an increase of almost 6% compared to the previous biennium

Here’s more on what made it into the final education budget bill.

Funding formula increase

The agreement announced earlier this week included a 2.45% increase to the general education funding formula in 2022 and a 2% increase in 2023, exceeding initial proposals from both the DFL-controlled House and GOP-majority Senate. The House’s budget proposal included a 2% increase both years, and the Senate’s called for no increase.

The increase will cost nearly $463 million over the next two years.

Cross-subsidy aid

The bill includes $4 million over the biennium for the English language learners so-called cross-subsidy, and $10.4 million for the special education cross-subsidy. This helps districts cover costs of required services for students with disabilities or students learning English, for which they do not currently receive enough state or federal funds.

Increase Teachers of Color and Indigenous Teachers Act

The bill calls for more than $15 million for planks of the Increase Teachers of Color Act, which had been introduced each year since 2017.

Both the House and Senate budgets included funding for teacher recruitment and retention programs, but they differed in funding levels. The total in the final bill was a compromise between the House, which wanted more spending, and the Senate, which wanted less.

Literacy training

The bill dedicates $3 million for literacy training for teachers in 2022, a Senate priority, though the it’s half what the Senate originally sought.

Digital well-being

The bill includes two Senate priorities around students’ digital well-being. It creates a limit on independent screen time at school for preschool students and a $1 million grant for training and resources around digital well-being.

Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten

The House had prioritized extending funding for voluntary preschool slots that were set to expire in 2022. The bill directs $46.5 million to maintain 4,000 spots.

Charter schools

Both the House and Senate bills included language to establish a timeline for charter school authorizers to fix problems identified by the state, which made it into the final bill. 

Academic standards review timeline

The bill suspends implementation of revised academic standards until 2023. The Minnesota Department of Education can still continue the revision process in the meantime.

The change comes amid the department’s revision of the state’s social studies standards, as required by law. The process was the subject of lengthy debate this session, primarily around issues of the nation’s racial history and other issues. 

An early draft of the social studies standards released in December was criticized by Minnesotans of varying backgrounds and political affiliations for historical omissions and perceived bias. 

Mental health

The House and Senate had agreed on spending $265,000 to create suicide prevention grants for teachers. The bill also requires schools to use resources provided by MDE or evidence-based resources when teaching about suicide and self-harm prevention.

Student discipline

The bill includes $1.75 million for grants to train teachers in non-exclusionary discipline practices — meaning discipline or restorative justice practices that don’t result in students missing classroom time.

Both the House and Senate bills included language prohibiting schools from suspending students in kindergarten through third grade, but the Senate included an exception for students that pose a threat to the safety of others. Lawmakers couldn’t reach an agreement on the policy change, and it was left out of the final bill.

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a data reporter with the Reformer. Rilyn is a Minnesota native and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.