The Potluck

Walz calls on Minnesota Senate to pass summer learning package

By: - May 4, 2021 2:33 pm

Gov. Tim Walz speaks at a news conference on April 19, 2021, as the jury begins deliberations in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Gov. Tim Walz called on the state Senate on Tuesday to pass his $150 million summer learning package, which the House passed in March.

The package includes state and federal funding for summer school and other measures aimed at mitigating students’ learning losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The GOP-led Senate has balked at the proposal and said federal relief funds should be enough to cover summer services.

When Walz introduced the package this spring, officials called on legislators to pass it as quickly as possible so schools could start planning for the summer.

“With the end of the school year quickly approaching, the Minnesota Senate must finish the job and pass the summer learning plan to ensure our students are ready to conquer the school year in the fall,” Walz said in a news release.

Experts say summer school will be essential to help students catch up after the pandemic disrupted school for more than a year. The stress and interruptions have had devastating effects on some students, especially low-income students and students of color. 

Walz’s package includes $57.5 million in federal funds to expand summer programming and transportation; $20 million for summer preschool; $7 million for mental health services; $10 million for field trips; and $25 million to mitigate financial effects of dwindling enrollment due to the pandemic.

Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, chair of the Senate Education Committee, said in a statement that schools can use $2.6 billion in federal relief funds for summer programs.

“Summer school is funded,” Chamberlain said. “Rather than raising taxes for a one-time need, like summer school, we should use the one-time federal funds for it.” 

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a former data reporter for the Minnesota Reformer. Rilyn was born and raised in Minnesota 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.