Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday, Nov. 29, spoke with students at Lake Middle School in Woodbury, Minnesota. Photo by Michelle Griffith/Minnesota Reformer.
Gov. Tim Walz, now with fewer hurdles to enact his agenda thanks to the DFL’s state government trifecta, offered few specifics about his education funding priorities during a school visit Tuesday. Walz did allow that Minnesota needs to address staffing shortages, reduce property taxes and work to provide free lunch for public school students.
At Lake Middle School in Woodbury, the newly reelected governor greeted classrooms and spoke with students about ways to improve education in Minnesota. After taking selfies with classes and answering their questions — among them: Are you and Scott Jensen friends? — Walz met briefly with reporters.
Walz addressed teacher shortages, but he demurred when asked what his administration is pushing for specifically. Walz also avoided specific dollar amounts, but said he wants to use Minnesota’s $9 billion budget surplus for “one time” investments into areas of education that have been struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everybody in the state wants to have successful, sustainable schools that serve the needs of our students and families,” Walz said.
Last year, Minnesota House Democrats approved more than $3 billion in new spending over two years for urgent needs including student mental health services and attracting more teachers of color, among other priorities.
Senate Republicans were not supportive, and the two sides didn’t reach a compromise. No education spending bill passed last year’s legislative session.
Walz on Tuesday discussed a broader idea to reshape school finance and reduce the burden on local property taxpayers, especially in the area of special education. Schools by law must provide special education services, but federal and state funding do not cover the costs. School districts move funding from general education, but when there isn’t enough in the district’s budget they turn to local taxpayers for property tax levies.
Walz also said he supports providing free lunches for students, noting the burden inflation has put on Minnesota families.
“Now is the time to be big on this, not just tread water,” Walz said.
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