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Walz offers 'down payment' on making Minnesota the 'education state'

Gov. Tim Walz signed into law his first budget bill surrounded by preschool students at Bruce Vento Elementary School on Thursday, May 30, 2019. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service

ST. PAUL — Schools around the state are set to see a funding boost next year (as well as the year after) under a $48 billion, two-year spending plan passed through the Legislature and was signed into law.

And that could mean districts struggling to make ends meet can skip bond referendum votes and resulting property tax hikes for Minnesotans, at least for now, Gov. Tim Walz and Commissioner of the Department of Education Mary Cathryn Ricker told reporters on Monday, June 10.

Walz, a former geography teacher, approved the $543 million E-12 education spending bill that will boost funding to Minnesota public schools by 2% next year compared to current levels and another 2% in the year after. It's not as much of an increase as Walz wanted to provide for education, but it's a "down payment" on what he hopes will be a longer-term investment in public schools.

"This education budget is that sort of a down payment on that education state," Ricker told Greater Minnesota reporters, referring back to Walz's bid to make Minnesota the "education state." "While I know that we can and we will do more, I know this is the start that our school communities were looking for."

Education groups hoped to see a bigger number pass through the Capitol this year, but in the divided Legislature, Democrats said they weren't able to get Republicans who hold control in the Senate to budge.

And while it's not as much as Walz or the House DFL caucus hoped to provide for public schools, the DFL governor said with the increases in funding to the education formula along with state support to offset the growing price tag for special education could help schools stay afloat.

Farmers, who've paid an outsized amount in ag land property taxes, will also see tax credits and the state will help pay some of the property tax dollars ag landowners owe to school districts. Under the education bill, the state will also pay to fund 4,000 voluntary pre-kindergarten slots that were set to expire.

Walz said his next budget request would likely include more voluntary pre-kindergarten slots. And after all 201 state legislative seats come up for a vote in 2020, Walz could have a group more willing to support that push in 2021.

"I think you probably expect to see that as a big piece, a cornerstone of our next budget," he said of boosting the voluntary pre-kindergarten slots. The education spending plan also put another $8.1 million toward American Indian tribal schools over the next four years.

But looking down the road, there's more work to do to get Minnesota public schools the dollars they need to provide students equal quality of education across districts in the state, Walz said.

How much more is your school district set to get?

Bemidji - $3,496,409 over the biennium including $2,423,938 in general education funding, $643,754 for special education and funding to maintain 34 voluntary pre-K seats.

Blackduck - $389,008 over the biennium including $335,775 in general education funding and $53,233 in special education.

Two Harbors (Lake Superior School District) - $839,419 over the biennium including $684,870 in general education funding and $156,774 for special education.

Park Rapids - $1,265,788 over the biennium including $797,811 in general education funding, $153,095 for special education and funding to maintain 31 voluntary pre-K seats.

Duluth - $5,765,236 over the biennium including $3,857,876 in general education funding, $1,686,736 in special education, funding to maintain 20 voluntary pre-K seats.

Cloquet - $1,557,985 over the biennium including $1,333,629 in general education funding and $224,356 in special education.

Moorhead -$3,936,864 over the biennium including $3,276,002 in general education funding and $660,861 in special education.

Detroit Lakes - $1,617,719 over the biennium including $1,373,510 in general education funding and $249,087 in special education.

Perham - $724,163 over the biennium including $631,776 in general education funding and $92,387 in special education.

Wadena (Wadena-Deer Creek School District) - $640,506 over the biennium including $500,555 in general education funding and $139,950 in special education.

Osakis - $403,515 over the biennium including $374,315 in general education funding and $29,200 in special education.

Alexandria - $2,285,490 over the biennium including $1,874,604 in general education funding and $410,886 in special education.

Morris - $538,653 over the biennium including $469,762 in general education funding and $68,891 in special education.

Hancock - $182,208 over the biennium including $168,922 in general education funding and $65,869 in special education.

Willmar - $3,628,147 over the biennium including $2,221,321 in general education funding, $321,020 in special education and funding to maintain 80 voluntary pre-K spots.

Worthington - $2,752,289 over the biennium including $2,130,393 in general education funding, $259,345 in special education and funding to maintain 32 voluntary pre-K spots.

Farmington - $3,916,852 over the biennium including $3,051,970 in general education funding and $864,882 in special education.

Rochester - $11,460,010 over the biennium including $8,161,549 in general education funding, $1,971,036 in special education and funding to maintain 108 voluntary pre-K spots.

Rosemount (Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District) - $15,599,306 over the biennium including $12,588,343 in general education funding, $2,459,522 in special education and funding to maintain 46 voluntary pre-K spots.

Hastings - $2,836,005 over the biennium including $1886,413 in general education funding and $949,592 in special education.

Cottage Grove / Woodbury (South Washington County School District) - $10,608,673 over the biennium including $8,111,188 in general education funding, $1,872,464 in special education and funding to maintain 48 voluntary pre-K spots.

St. Paul - $27,132,269 over the biennium including $13,053,019 in general education funding, $4,183,639 in special education and funding to maintain 266 voluntary pre-Kseats.

Red Wing - $1,498,530 over the biennium including $1,195,303 in general education funding and $303,227 in special education funding.