The Potluck

Walz, legislative leaders agree to $525 million in new education spending

By: - May 17, 2021 3:46 pm

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

Legislative leaders agreed to $525 million in new education spending over the next two years as part of the “numbers only” budget deal announced Monday.

The global budget agreement struck by Gov. Tim Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka sets the framework for lawmakers to develop a detailed education budget before May 28. 

The new spending would include a 2% increase to the general education funding formula — the complicated equation that sets minimum funding levels for school districts — in both 2022 and 2023. The increase was sought after by Democratic-Farmer-Labor lawmakers to help schools keep up with inflation and opposed by the GOP. 

Republicans cited the influx of federal COVID-19 relief money for schools as reason for avoiding increases in state funding, while Democrats said the one-time federal funds wouldn’t be sufficient.

The education budget originally proposed and passed by the DFL-controlled House called for $772.5 million in new spending, including $399 million for the formula increase. The GOP-majority Senate’s education budget included $152.1 million in new spending and no formula increase.

Legislators from the House and Senate had reached an agreement on 16 policy provisions in the education budget by Monday, after days of debate in conference committee. Funding issues remained unresolved.

The policy provisions include a ban on lunch shaming and refusing to serve meals to students with lunch debt; a limit on screen time for preschoolers and kindergarteners; a requirement that education grants be used for evidence-based practices; and creating a timeline for charter school authorizers to fix issues identified in corrective action plans.

The budget deal also includes an agreement to spend $75 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds on summer school.

The Legislature will reconvene in a special session next month to approve an overall two-year budget.

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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.

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