As the Minnesota Legislature wrapped up its session on June 30, it approved the E-12 education bill.

The bill includes a 2.45% increase in funding in fiscal year 2022 and 2% in fiscal year 2023. The bill emphasizes student literacy, mental health and supporting teachers of color without burdensome mandates.

This is the largest student formula increase in 15 years – an increase of $1.1 billion over the next four years. More than 80% of the new funding is placed on the state education formula. The money will be sent to local school districts, allowing them the flexibility to spend on the specific needs of their districts.

When Braham Area Schools Superintendent Ken Gagner learned about the passage of the E-12 education bill, he remarked: “ISD No. 314 is very pleased with the legislation passed regarding school funding. It took longer than what we wanted from our own budget planning process, but we are very happy with the increase. Quality schools benefit all Minnesotans, you might see that benefit now that your own children are in school and we will all see the benefit of a quality workforce and civic minded citizens.”

Prior to the passing of the bill

However, during the Braham Area School Board meeting on June 21, the adverse impacts of the state Legislature’s lack of budget agreement were discussed.

If the Legislature hadn’t passed a budget agreement by June 30, government operations would have halted.

Gagner was surprised to learn the state education system is not considered “essential services,” he said.

“This is if the Legislature doesn’t settle, which they will,” Gagner added.

Gov. Tim Walz directed his agencies to prepare a list of critical services necessary to protect the lives and safety of Minnesotans in the event of a shutdown, said Dr. Heather Mueller, commissioner of Minnesota Department of Education, in a memorandum.

“According to the criteria provided, state agencies, state aid payments made by MDE to schools, libraries and nonprofits have not been deemed a ‘priority 1 or 2 critical service,’ affecting life or safety,” Mueller explained.

The E-12 education bill appropriates funds for the payment of state aids to school districts, charter schools, tribal schools, libraries and nonprofits; authorizes the allocation of federal aids received by the state to school districts, charter schools and tribal schools; and appropriates funds for ongoing MDE operations, she added.

“I’ve been an educator for 30-some years; I’ve never gotten an email like this that talks about a threatened shutdown in the state government,” Gagner said, alluding to how that would cause a shutdown in the education system as a result. “It’s just never happened in our lifetimes that has even been brought up.”

The school board passed a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, authorizing that there will be a budget to pay district bills, school staff and administrators, teachers and others. However, the district’s ability to pay all the bills was dependent on the Legislature agreeing on a budget, Gagner said.

“They need to pass a budget, that’s what the state needs to do,” he added.

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