House DFL pitches $1.15B increase in education spending using state surplus

Districts would also be required to report teacher hires and terminations by race and ethnicity annually.

Minnesota Department of Education/Facebook

(The Center Square) — Minnesota House DFL committee chairs on Monday pitched a $1.15 billion increase in education funding for fiscal year 2023 and $2.12 billion in fiscal years 2024 and 2025.

The Minnesota House Education Finance, Policy and Early Childhood committees proposed using the state’s historic budget surplus for the increases.

Center of the American Experiment Policy Fellow and Educated Teachers MN Director Catrin Wigfall told The Center Square in an emailed statement Monday that the House plan won’t help.

“The House education plan is unfortunately more of the same — increased spending with no actual education reform to help student achievement,” she said. “It’s time to offer up real policy solutions versus just more cash infusions.”

Recommendations she proposed in her July 2020 report on Minnesota’s education system included expanding school choice, reconsidering discipline policies and learning from other states’ successes.

In 2021, Minnesota legislators approved the largest formula increase for public schools in 15 years, with an additional $554 million in fiscal years 2022-2023 and $668 million in fiscal years 2024-2025 for public education, a House news release said. The per pupil funding formula increased 2.45% for fiscal year 2022 and 2% for fiscal year 2023.

The new bill, HF4300, proposes spending $475 million on mental health. The proposal will allow schools, which are facing school support personnel shortages, to hire more than 1,000 more counselors, social workers, school psychologists, school nurses and chemical dependency specialists.

Expenditures on special education services are more than $700 million more than what the state pays for the services. The deficit for English Language Learner services is nearly $150 million, the release said.

The House DFL proposal provides more than $500 million annually over each of the next three fiscal years to address that gap, reducing the amount school districts pay to make up for it, the release said.

The proposal also expands Grow Your Own teacher training programs to help people of color and Indigenous people pursue careers in teaching. It contains an ethnic studies curriculum, efforts to improve literacy and “encourages schools to utilize non-exclusionary discipline.”

Democrats also want to spend $525 million from fiscal years 2023 to 2025 on a statewide voluntary prekindergarten program for children with the least likelihood of having access to early learning.

The bill also includes replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day and doubles (from $20,000 to $40,000) funding minimums for American Indian education aid for districts with American Indian education programs for fiscal year 2023 and later.

High school students would be required to take a course in government and citizenship, a course in ethnic studies, and a course in personal finance. Students would have state-mandated free access to menstrual products.

Districts would also be required to report teacher hires and terminations by race and ethnicity annually to the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board.

“Schools and students received historic funding in last year’s budget. It’s obvious now that the worst thing for kids was the isolation and mandates that kept them out of the classroom. But sending billions of dollars into more administration isn’t the solution,” said Sen. Roger Chamberlain, chair of the Senate Education Committee.