It’s back to school season again in Minnesota, and thousands of kids are back in the classroom. My colleagues and I make it a legislative priority to ensure that students receive a good education regardless of their zip code. Educating children is one of our fundamental responsibilities. As the proud owner of a PHD (Park High diploma), I benefited greatly from a good public education, thanks to the investments we've made in our state's education system.
In the 2019 legislative session, the final E-12 education omnibus budget bill we passed provided an additional $543 million in new funding for Minnesota school districts over the next two years. This included a 2% increase in each year in the basic funding formula, which is the largest per-pupil funding source for our students. This formula provides schools with vital resources in delivering quality education for our students. This also reduces the need for communities to raise their property taxes to cover costs. Every dollar the state invests helps prevent these increases.
We also recommitted to our earliest learners. We know that early learning is the foundation of lifelong success and continue to make it a priority. We restored $49 million in Pre-K investments and funded early education slots for 4,000 more young learners.
A top priority for school districts across the state was providing additional state help for special education expenses that are being paid for with general education dollars. Funding to freeze the special education cross-subsidy was set at $90.7 million in FY20-21 and $142.2 million.
One of the most important issues facing our state is making sure our schools are safe for our students. I have long been a proponent of using every resource at our disposal to make our schools safer. If we maintain a surplus in the state budget, school safety grants will receive $30 million that schools will be able to use for improving school security.
One bipartisan proposal I carried for school safety was to provide the resources for schools to create threat assessment teams. These teams comprised of mental health professionals, administrators, teachers and law enforcement would help students get help if they are exhibiting behaviors that could be considered dangerous.
I also fought for required radon testing in our schools. We should make sure that our schools and classrooms are not being exposed to dangerous chemicals that could harm our loved ones. Though I’m disappointed it wasn’t included in the final education bill this year, I believe the momentum to address this serious public health issue.
The total amount of new funding this year is a positive step forward. When our state is doing well, we should be investing in our students and their success. However, the new funding this year is barely keeping up with the cost of inflation, and many of our districts will still be calling referendums and levies to pay for costs. The state can and must do more to reduce the burden faced by rising property taxes. Fully funding our schools provides the best return on investment we can make in our state. I am committed to doing whatever I can as your representative in the Senate to support Minnesota’s education system.
Though the legislative session is now over, we will be busy between now and the 2020 legislative session. Don't hesitate to call my office at 651-297-8060 with any questions or concerns.