Walz highlights summer learning as part of budget deal

[anvplayer video=”5030476″ station=”998122″]

The first tangible result of the budget deal announce by Gov. Tim Walz and legislative leaders on Monday is $75 million in funding for "summer learning" programs across Minnesota to help students who fell behind during the pandemic.

"This was going to be the recovery from COVID budget," the governor said during a visit to Otter Lake Elementary School in White Bear Lake. "It needed to focus on kids, schools, it needed to focus on families and it needed to focus on small businesses."

Minnesota Education Commissioner Heather Mueller says the money will be used from everything from kindergarten readiness programs and field trips to mental health services for students who struggled during the pandemic.

"We’re thankful the governor and lieutenant governor and the chairs of both the Senate and the House recognized the importance of this summer programming," Mueller said.

Minnesota lawmakers reach budget agreement; special session being planned

The $75 million will come from a $500 million pot of money controlled by the governor from the federal COVID-19 relief funding sent to Minnesota. He will likely spend much of the rest of that money on COVID-19 vaccinations and testing. Another $2.3 billion will be disbursed by the governor and the Legislature over the next two years.

The bigger budget fight still to come will be over the $52 billion in spending targets for the regular state budget the governor and lawmakers agreed to on Monday. The last line of the two-page written agreement ends with a potentially ominous warning: "The global budget targets agreement reached by the Governor, Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader does not ensure approval of any omnibus bills."

In other words, the Legislature will need to work hard to reach a compromise most lawmakers can support.

"There’s 201 members of the Legislature that need to work this through," the governor said on Monday after reaching an agreement with legislative leaders. "They need to find compromise as we have."

The funding below highlights both summer learning opportunities and the academic year programs at school districts and charter schools across the state:

Academic and Mental Health Support ($34.614 million)

Public schools and districts will receive a general allocation in order to create partnerships with organizations and provide services in the following areas:

  • Expand mental health and well-being support to youth and adolescents attending school district and charter school summer learning programs.
  • Partner with community businesses and organizations to develop a summer mentor and/or tutoring model that covers enrichment programming and other costs such as transportation and meals to increase student participation.
  • Bring school-based summer programs into the community, providing opportunities for enrichment, social and emotional skill building, mental health support and tutoring services.
  • Provide students with summer field trips for hands-on learning opportunities. Hands-on learning opportunities include activities such as trips to nature centers, state parks, zoos, museums or theaters.

Preschool for 4- and 5-year-olds ($20 million)

This allocation provides preschool or prekindergarten to 4- and 5-year-olds. These funds can be used in a Parent Aware star-rated, public or private, preschool, or prekindergarten in-person learning program. These high-quality early learning programs help children develop their social-emotional skills before they begin kindergarten.

School-linked Mental Health Grants ($6.001 million)

This investment in school-linked mental health grants, administered by the Department of Human Services, will address an increased need for community mental health services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Expanded Access to Tutoring ($3.25 million)

The governor will expand access to tutoring services including academic enrichment, mental health support and other wrap-around services for K-12 children by providing grants to experienced entities, including community organizations.

Increased Adult Basic Education Program Funding ($10 million)

This investment will strengthen Adult Basic Education (ABE) programming statewide to ensure access to, enhance the quality of, and to increase the ABE programming available. This proposal will fund expanded ABE programming for the summer of 2021 and if funding remains available, it would be used throughout fiscal year 2022 in order to build and help sustain enhanced programming year-round.

Learning Acceleration and College Readiness Initiatives ($1.125 million)

The governor will allocate funding to the Office of Higher Education for two programs for the summer months. Funding for OHE’s Summer Academic Enrichment Program will increase by $625,000 and the Intervention for College Attendance Program will increase by $500,000. These programs will work to address education challenges due to the pandemic, which is disproportionately impacting the most underserved students.