Minnesota has long had a reputation for being a leader in education. In talking to members of the community last fall and listening to constituents now at the Capitol, it’s clear Minnesotans value world-class schools and quality opportunities for students to achieve. I’ve learned that many of you, like me, live in our community in large part because of our excellent school district. Those who don’t currently have children in Mounds View Public Schools recognize that the strength of our schools positively impacts our property values.
Unfortunately, in the early 2000s, school funding was slashed to balance the state budget. A generation later, school districts have yet to recover from the devastating consequences such as fewer teachers, larger class sizes, and diminished programming. Districts have been forced to ask local communities to contribute more through operating levy increases, which has exacerbated disparities among districts.
Minnesotans have made clear to us how much they value strong funding for our K-12 classrooms. A three percent per-pupil increase the first year and two percent the second year of the budget will help position schools to build a great future for all students, no matter where they live in the state. Our budget also delivers funding for critical support personnel like counselors, psychologists, social workers, and nurses. Throughout session, I have heard from teachers, students, parents, and school administrators about the increasing and unmet mental health needs of our students.
For decades, the federal government hasn’t upheld its promised commitment for special education funding, and our budget helps districts ensure we meet the needs of every student. Additionally, the bill includes strategies such as full-service community schools, recruitment of teachers of color, and more opportunities to earn college credit in high school.
Once they’ve graduated from high school, Minnesotans deserve the opportunity to attend college or obtain career training without breaking the bank. Investments in higher education strengthen our state’s economic competitiveness and help keep talented people here in Minnesota. Our education budget makes strong investments in the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State campuses, including funding for a tuition freeze. This will both lower costs for students and families as well as strengthen the quality of our institutions. Along with new funding for the Minnesota State Grant Program, we can meaningfully address the staggering amounts of debt students build up. Minnesota ranks ninth in the nation for student loan debt. This isn’t a ranking to be proud of.
It’s critical to encourage our next generation of Minnesotans to develop passions and ambitiously aspire to reach their hopes and dreams. This takes hard work, resiliency, and perseverance to overcome challenges. Just as we expect our children to think big and demonstrate dedication, our children should expect Minnesota’s leaders to do the same when it comes to strengthening their future.
As the mother of two sons, I can’t imagine how different their outlook would be if they didn’t have terrific teachers and well-rounded curriculum enabling them to achieve. I’m committed to delivering the resources ensuring all Minnesota students can have these opportunities to succeed well into the future.
Rep. Kelly Moller represents all or part of Shoreview, Mounds View, Arden Hills, and Spring Lake Park in the Minnesota House.