With strong, bipartisan support, the Senate has approved a two-year education budget that invests $18.7 billion in Minnesota students, provides local control, and prioritizes programs.
“From the very beginning of the session, it has been my priority to put together a strong, bipartisan education budget that provides opportunities for all Minnesota students to receive an education that prepares them for the jobs of tomorrow,” said Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester), chairwoman of the Senate E12 Finance Committee. “I believe we have succeeded. We spent months working together on a budget that affords school districts more control, invests in our schools and classrooms, and prioritizes proven programs.”
The compromise legislation, crafted by Sen. Nelson, spends an additional $1.3 billion over the previous budget, and includes a 2% increase to the per-pupil general education formula over each of the next two school years. This amounts to an estimated increase of $320 per pupil for schools to spend on areas that directly impact students and educators – and was a top priority of education advocacy groups and local school districts this year.
“I have been a steadfast supporter of a 2% increase to the general education formula throughout the session. In fact, I authored legislation in January to do just that, and I am so pleased that this increase made it to the final bill,” said Sen. Nelson.
The budget also funds the 35,000 additional students projected to enter Minnesota’s public schools by 2021, while providing additional funding for other critical needs, such as special education, adult education, facilities maintenance, career and technical education, and ensuring full literacy by third grade. In addition, it includes $50 million over the upcoming two school years for preschool, allowing local school districts to choose whether existing pre-kindergarten programs or a new, much more flexible “School Readiness Plus” program best fits the needs of their students.
Finally, a significant effort to increase the transparency and accountability of public schools is included through an overhaul to Minnesota’s teacher licensure system. The bill restructures and modernizes the system, getting qualified teachers into the classroom more efficiently, and opening new pathways for qualified candidates to enter the profession. The reform focuses on rewarding highly-effective teachers and school districts developing their own leaders.
“The education budget is about putting the needs of our students first. With hundreds of millions in new funding and substantive reforms, we provide schools with the resources they need to keep up with the rising costs of education and students with programs that will prepare them for life after school,” Sen. Nelson continued. “Concentrating most new funding directly into the classroom will allow us to work toward closing our state’s nation-leading achievement gap and secure opportunities for students from all walks of life. By focusing on students and funding what works, we can improve the quality of education across Minnesota.”
Sen. Carla Nelson has long been in a leader in education. A child of a high school principal and special education teacher, Sen. Nelson became an educator herself, teaching elementary and middle school courses, as well as special education and reading. She has a master’s degree in teacher leadership from the University of Minnesota.
Sen. Nelson is in her third term representing Senate District 26, which includes students in Byron, Chatfield, Dover-Eyota, Hayfield, Plainview, Rochester, Stewartville and St. Charles school districts in Olmsted County. Sen. Nelson serves as chairwoman of the Senate E12 Finance Committee and co-chaired the conference committee on the education budget.