Imagine E-12 educators coming back to school and their buildings were fully staffed with teachers, education support professionals and other educators.
Imagine if there were enough counselors and mental health professionals available to meet the needs of all the students.
It’s not easy. Even before the pandemic and 12 straight months of historically high inflation put unprecedented pressure on school budgets, the state’s investment in public schools had declined for two decades, after accounting for the rising costs of goods and services.
The cumulative result is staff shortages, a mental health crisis, increasing class sizes and unhealthy buildings. Schools are struggling to offer art, music, sports and technical education. Inequality between districts is growing as some local taxpayers approve levies and some don’t.
It’s time to fully fund education so our students can get one-on-one time with their educators, learn in modern buildings, and get all the services they need. And it’s time for educators to receive the compensation, from their first day through retirement, that they deserve as respected professionals.
Gov. Tim Walz and pro-education legislators have made education their top budget priority, including passing a budget in 2021 with the largest per-pupil increase in 15 years. To recover from the pandemic and overcome inflation, educators need more champions for students at the Capitol and Congress.
Five things to know:
- This spring, Walz and the Minnesota House budgeted $1 billion of the state’s $9.2 billion budget surplus for public schools – but GOP lawmakers walked away without a final agreement.
- The think tank North Star Policy Action reports that over the last 20 years, per pupil state aid received by Minnesota school districts has declined by 20 percent, after adjusting for inflation.
- Despite a 140-percent increase in per pupil school property taxes, such as local levies, real per pupil school district revenue has fallen by over 6 percent since 2003, according to North Star.
- To make matters worse, the think tank predicts declining state aid and district will continue falling during the next two years unless the Legislature acts to increase funding.
- Congress has failed to live up to its promise to pay 40 percent of special education costs, which means districts are now covering over $700 million in expenses that the federal and state governments should pay.
- The governor and members of the state House and Senate make the decisions about how much revenue to raise and how much public money to invest in public education.
- The governor’s budget sets the terms of the debate on education spending. The governor can veto budgets that don’t invest enough in education, or invest in the wrong programs.
- The failure of Congress to pay its share of the state’s special education costs forces state and local taxpayers to pay more. We must elect U.S. representatives who will do better.