Education Minnesota, the state’s largest teachers union, urged Minnesotans to “vote in a new Senate” after an education budget agreed to by party leaders was released.
“This is a lukewarm outcome to a legislative session that had a lot of potential for Minnesota students,” Education Minnesota President Denise Specht said in a press release. “We have a status quo in our public schools that is driving out educators, failing to serve the needs of thousands of students and was rejected by voters who elected a former educator as governor in a landslide last year.”
Gov. Tim Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman (D-Brooklyn Park), and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) agreed on an education budget over the weekend that will increase the general education funding formula by two percent for the next two years.
— Brian Bakst (@Stowydad) May 21, 2019
Education Minnesota’s response to the deal isn’t exactly a positive sign for Walz, who considers teacher unions to be among his strongest political allies. But Specht placed the blame for the “disappointing” budget squarely on the shoulders of the Republican-controlled Senate.
“Educators recognize that Gov. Walz and Speaker Hortman fought hard for Minnesota students this year, but they faced an obstructionist majority in the Senate that put the desires of giant corporations and the wealthy few ahead of the voters and students,” she said. “If this is the best deal Minnesotans can get with the Senate we have, Minnesotans need to vote in a new Senate.”
Specht said she was most disappointed by all of the “missing policies” in the agreement.
“The state could have enacted rules to retain teachers of color, require radon testing in schools and reduce suspensions for kindergartners. We also squandered a chance to fine-tune the state’s teacher licensure law to raise standards and avoid unintended consequences. It hurts to think of all the lost opportunities.”
As The Minnesota Sun reported in February, Specht and her organization called for taxing the “richest Minnesotans” to fund a “$4 billion infusion” in public schools over the next two years.
“That’s a lot of money. The government will need to raise revenue from the richest Minnesotans and corporations to pay for it, and we believe that the public is on our side,” Specht said during a February press conference.
The budget agreement reached by lawmakers this week will invest $543 million in public education over the next biennium.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Teachers Protesting” by Denise Specht.