House education proposals increase supports for students; Senate offers minimal changes

Clark Goldenrod and Joo Ning Lim
May 16, 2022
The Minnesota House and Senate present differing approaches to support students in their supplemental budget proposals. The House’s budget proposes an additional $1.3 billion in net E-12 Education and Early Childhood funding, and $100 million for Higher Education, for the current FY 2022-23 biennium. Meanwhile, the Senate proposes $31 million for E-12 Education and $19 million for Higher Education.  

Over the past two years, students, schools, and higher ed institutions have dealt with tremendous uncertainty and disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With historic resources available to the state – including a projected $9.3 billion surplus for FY 2022-23 – policymakers have an important opportunity to invest in building an equitable recovery. But because the Senate has proposed such a large tax bill, they invest much less in public services, including E-12 and higher education. 

E-12 Education 

The House’s supplemental budget proposal includes $1.3 billion in net additional funding for E-12 education in this biennium and $2.2 billion in FY 2024-25. Their E-12 education bill also includes some early childhood provisions that were originally passed in other bills.  

The largest single item in the House E-12 bill is $423 million in FY 2022-23 and $993 million in FY 2024-25 for additional special education aid to school districts. This investment works to address the fact that districts across the state are currently providing special education services that are not fully covered by federal and state funding.  

Similarly, the House bill includes $76 million in FY 2022-23 and $202 million in FY 2024-25 for English Learner aid to schools. English learner funding currently goes to certain districts to support instruction to students who are proficient in languages other than English, through programming such as English as a second language bilingual education. However, similar to the state’s special education aid situation, school districts are currently providing more services than they are reimbursed for. The House proposal would increase English learner per pupil support by almost $300 in FY 2023, and would eliminate the gap between how much districts receive from the state and how much they actually spend on services to support English learners by FY 2026.  

The House’s education budget also makes several investments to support mental health, including $96 million in FY 2022-23 and $212 million in FY 2024-25 for support services staff in schools – including counselors, social workers, psychologists, and chemical dependency staff.  

The proposal also would provide $174 million in FY 2022-23 for full-day pre-kindergarten. Under their plan, over 20,000 children would access pre-K through a variety of options, including schools, Head Start, and child care centers. The bill also expands early learning options through a $150 million increase in Early Learning Scholarships in FY 2023.  

The bill includes several initiatives to better provide a quality education and supports for all students, whether they’re Black, Brown, or white. This includes a $62 million one-time increase in FY 2022-23 for the Grow Your Own initiative to increase the number of Black, Indigenous, and other Teachers of Color in the state. 

Meanwhile, the Senate’s education budget only includes two funding provisions, totaling $31 million in FY 2022-23 and $1.4 million in FY 2024-25. The bulk of their proposed new funding would go toward supporting educators teaching reading.  

Higher Education 

The House higher education omnibus supplemental budget bill includes a total of $33 million to the University of Minnesota in FY 2022-23 and an additional $15 million in FY 2024-25. Minnesota State Colleges and Universities would receive $10 million in FY 2022-23 and $18 million in FY 2024-25. The House follows Governor Tim Walz’s lead and includes funding to reduce the cost of attendance for Minnesota residents at the University of Minnesota. The House also allocates funding for Minnesota State campuses to address students’ basic needs and  funding for a mental health awareness program.  

The House allocates $58 million for the Office of Higher Education. The House’s budget includes several proposals to advance equity and access to higher education by increasing funding for the state grant program and emergency assistance program. The House would bring down the cost of a college education by increasing financial aid through the State Grant program, including policy changes that would allow students to receive higher grant awards. It also seeks to bring down the cost of education through $30 million to establish a new tuition free college grant program. This program would cover the remaining cost of tuition and fees for students enrolled at state colleges, with some limits based on the student’s family income.   

The House higher ed bill supports parents and expecting parents through the Student Parent Center Grant. The House proposal also allocates funding for teachers of color and underrepresented student teachers, includes additional funding for tribal colleges, and increases financial aid for Native American students. They also fund Hunger Free campus grants and extend eligibility to private nonprofit institutions. These grants would assist students facing food insecurity across Minnesota two- and four-year institutions and tribal colleges within Minnesota.  

Meanwhile, the Senate proposal includes only limited new funding for the state‘s university systems. They allocate $2.5 million in FY 2022-23 and $4.8 million in FY 2024-25 for the University of Minnesota, and $11 million in FY 2022-23 and $10 million in FY 2024-25 for Minnesota State. Most of the new funding in the Senate’s higher education bill goes to workforce development scholarships at Minnesota State campuses and funding for students pursuing law enforcement. Unfortunately, they do not take any broad-based steps to increase financial aid through the State Grant program or help students struggling to meet their basic needs.