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Walz Outlines Equity Funding Plan for MN Schools

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Recent test scores in Minnesota show Black and Hispanic students continue to fall well behind their Caucasian counterparts in areas such as match and reading. (Adobe Stock)
Recent test scores in Minnesota show Black and Hispanic students continue to fall well behind their Caucasian counterparts in areas such as match and reading. (Adobe Stock)
January 26, 2021

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The next time Minnesota lawmakers consider education spending, Gov. Tim Walz hopes equity will be at the center of the debate.

His new funding proposal for schools aims to address longstanding racial gaps for students. But the plan faces an uncertain future.

On Monday, the Democratic governor made public several provisions that are a part of his "Due North Education Plan" covering K-though-12 grade levels. Walz said the idea is to spread out funding to ensure every Minnesota child has a quality education, no matter their race or ZIP code.

"Where we don't have to depend on property taxes and bond referendums, so some schools can have indoor swimming pools while others have leaky roofs and no opportunities for classes," Walz explained.

The plan also has a short-term focus, providing schools with resources to make up for lost learning during the pandemic. The proposal doesn't have an estimated cost yet, and it's unclear how the end result might reform the current financing model.

While Minnesota's short-term revenue outlook has improved, it still faces a long-term deficit of $1.3 billion, which could result in a tough debate with Republican leaders on whether to take on new spending.

Heather Mueller, Deputy Education Commissioner, said there are other ways the plan can help to reduce racial gaps, including diversity in staff.

"Our students deserve and need to see themselves in their teachers, and our white students need to have access to teachers of color and Indigenous teachers," Mueller asserted.

The Walz administration also is calling for the state to develop and provide training for all school staff on anti-bias practices. In addition to achievement gaps, Black K-through-12 students in Minnesota represent 38% of suspensions and expulsions, despite only making up a small percentage of the overall student population.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN