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Mental health

Improving the mental health of students and staff

Most Minnesotans want our students to learn and thrive in safe and welcoming schools, no matter where they live or what they look like. Yet right now, many students and their educators are struggling with anxiety, trauma and other mental health issues.

Unfortunately, corporate interests and the wealthy want to rig the economy in their favor and weaken the voice of workers. For decades, they have tried to destabilize unions through anti-worker legislation and court cases — including here in Minnesota.

Minnesota’s learners and educators deserve better. This year we can come together across race and ZIP code and elect leaders to school boards, the Legislature, state office and Congress who will respect our educators and students and provide the mental health care they need.

Four things to know:

  1. In spring 2022, Gov. Tim 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.
  2. Researchers at the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development reported in February that addressing the mental health of educators and students was the top concern for educators, students and their families. The researchers reached their conclusion after analyzing the results of more than 53,000 responses to a series of surveys.
  3. Minnesota has one of the worst school counselor-to-student ratios in the nation at one counselor for every 654 students. This far exceeds the recommendation of 1:250 from the American School Counselor Association. Districts are also reporting shortages of other members of their mental health care teams, including nurses, social workers and psychologists.
  4. Per-pupil funding for schools has declined 20% over 20 years when accounting for inflation. Even with a 140% increase in local property tax revenue, Minnesota districts are now spending $957 less per pupil than in 2003, according to the North Star Policy Action think tank.

Taking charge:

  • 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 superintendents to move money out of the general fund, which pays for mental health providers. We must elect representatives to Congress who will do better.

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