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Comparing progressives and conservatives on education funding.

A young boy wearing a facemask writes in a school book

As students returned to school after the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, it became clear that lots of young learners would need a little extra support. Now, in the wake of the Omicron variant, helping our students rise above the stress and uncertainty is more important than ever. 

It’s up to us to make sure that Minnesota kids have the tools they need to learn and grow. That’s why education funding matters.

But while progressives are fighting for students, teachers, and families, conservatives have consistently tried to shortchange our schools. Here’s what you need to know.

Looking out for students

Many of us have seen firsthand the toll that a global pandemic can take on a person’s mental health. In response, Governor Tim Walz and progressives in the legislature are making mental health a priority. The governor’s supplemental budget proposal includes comprehensive investments in school social workers, counselors, nurses, and psychiatric resources to care for students’ emotional needs.

To ease some of the financial burden facing aspiring college students, Governor Walz’s budget proposal would also eliminate college application fees and offer greater financial aid.

And that’s not all…

At the beginning of the 2021, Governor Walz proposed his COVID-19 recovery budget. The plan included historic investments in education to support students recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite conservative roadblocks, Walz and progressives in the legislature still managed to pass a robust package that supports learners at every level. 

The budget includes the largest formula increase for E-12 education in 15 years. That’s in addition to $29 million provided for schools by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan

It also supports mental health resources for students, recruitment of diverse teachers, hunger prevention, and targeted funding for special education. 

For college students, Walz’s budget provides emergency assistance for students who are struggling financially. To help eliminate disparities, the education budget creates grants and scholarships for 80,000 low-income students and establishes college readiness programs for future scholars. 

Conservatives stood in the way

Despite seeing the challenges faced by our teachers and students during the pandemic, conservatives still voted against fully funding our schools. Instead, Senate conservatives proposed an inadequate education budget with no funding increases.

For years, conservatives like Paul Gazelka have advocated for “school vouchers” to allow families to send their kids to private schools instead of funding Minnesota’s public schools. 

But here’s the thing: vouchers don’t work. In states like Indiana, studies have shown that students who switched from public schools to private schools on vouchers actually performed worse on tests. 

Plus, school vouchers widen disparities rather than close them. Vouchers mostly benefit white, suburban students. That’s because private schools are inaccessible to many low-income students, rural students, and students of color. Either they’re too far away, or they’re not there at all. Additionally, many private schools don’t provide accommodations for the growing number of students with special needs.

School vouchers haven’t worked for other states. How do conservatives expect us to believe that they’ll work here?

Help us fight for our students

Every student in Minnesota deserves a world-class education. We can’t let conservatives get away with shortchanging our schools and worsening educational disparities. As the school year marches on, be sure to keep in touch with ABM for updates and action alerts. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Together, we’ll work to ensure that Minnesota makes the grade on education. 

Join Us.