Budget Stability, Flexibility Among Highlights of MN School Funding Plan
Friday, May 19, 2023
Many Minnesota school districts say they have been walking a financial tightrope, but leaders appear to be encouraged by the new education funding plan for K-12 schools.
With a record surplus in hand, the Legislature has sent the governor a package boosting per-pupil funding by 4%, and 2% over the next two budget years, and then, ties it to inflation in subsequent years.
Matt Hillmann, superintendent of Northfield Public Schools, noted they will not be able to restore recent budget cuts, but said the extra aid will provide much-needed stability moving forward.
"We use our funds to do good things for kids," Hillmann pointed out. "We can now see a little bit further around that corner, so that we can be more intentional in our long-range planning."
He added it is helpful for districts dealing with enrollment declines due to lower birthrates and other factors.
Hillman acknowledged there are some things to be cautious about, including certain mandates he feels might not have enough funding to be carried out. Republicans, who are in the minority this session, have criticized some aspects of the plan, including expanding unemployment insurance to hourly school workers.
Meanwhile, there is a new dedicated funding stream for adding support staff who can help with a student's mental, behavioral, and physical health needs.
Christy McCoy, a licensed clinical school social worker for St. Paul Public Schools, said it's significant because districts have more wiggle room to make these hires.
"Prior to that, any funding for our positions was coming out of the general fund," McCoy explained. "Schools would have to choose, 'Do I get a teacher, do I get a school social worker?'"
As legislative chair for the Minnesota School Social Workers Association, McCoy emphasized they fought for some of the provisions in the past couple of decades, and including them in the final bill is crucial as her colleagues address lingering behavioral concerns exacerbated by the pandemic.
"This year, we are seeing significant delays in our students' social functioning, in their ability to regulate their emotions," McCoy observed.
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