SUBSCRIBE NOW Just 99¢ for your first month



DFL pushes for greater K-12 mental health funding as education bill negotiations open

The House DFL-led proposal would use the state’s historic $9.25 billion budget surplus to boost education funding by $3.3 billion into 2025. The Senate proposal does not call for significant new spending and instead would push to boost reading proficiency scores.

We are part of The Trust Project.

ST. PAUL — With just a few weeks left of the Legislative session, Minnesota lawmakers are working to hash out the differences between major K-12 education plans passed by the Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic-Farmer-Labor-controlled House of Representatives.

Much like the other major proposals lawmakers have passed so far this session, the education bills from each chamber take very different approaches from one another. The House proposal sponsored by Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis, would use the state’s historic $9.25 billion budget surplus to boost education funding by $3.3 billion into 2025. The Senate proposal does not call for significant new spending and instead pushes to boost reading proficiency scores.

Mental health funding proposals in the DFL K-12 proposal took center stage Monday, May 9, as a conference committee of House Democrats and Senate Republicans started to work through differences between the bills. School mental health services funding would make up $475 million of that spending, with dedicated funds for hiring 1,100 student support staff such as social workers, psychologists and nurses.

Multiple witnesses, including mental health professionals, students and school officials testified that the need for more mental health resources is greater than ever, especially after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Intermediate District 287 Superintendent Sandra Lewandowski testified that unmet mental health service needs have become a public safety crisis for her students and staff. Her western Twin Cities school district, which serves students struggling with homelessness and mental health issues, in February saw a fatal shooting outside one of its schools in Richfield.

"We know that challenging behavior represents unmet needs. Our unmet needs in District 287 have had significant consequences for students and emotional and physical consequences for student staff and families," she testified. "We are all collectively responsible for addressing this public safety and children's mental health crisis. If not, I see our staff continuing to resign at twice the pace they have in recent years, and frankly, I think our state of Minnesota could end up subject to litigation around this issue."


Lewandowski shared stories of staff resigning from positions after dangerous or traumatic incidents. One teacher resigned after being punched in the face by a student and getting a concussion. Another left their position shortly after intervening in a student's suicide attempt due to trauma and previous work-related concussions.

Humans have eaten venison from CWD-infected deer before and did not get the disease, but at a recent Minnesota legislative hearing on this year’s environment and natural resources bill, a leader in the state’s effort to trace CWD said the key to preventing a possible animal-human jump is identifying and slowing the spread.
The Senate Finance Committee on Thursday, May 19, advanced a betting bill toward a vote of the full Senate, but with a key disagreement with the House on which groups should be able to run mobile and in-person sports betting in Minnesota, it remains uncertain if the chambers will be able to reach a deal by late Sunday night — the deadline to pass any bills.
April’s unemployment rate was down from 2.5% in March, marking the seventh month the figure has decreased, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development reported Thursday, May 19.
If signed into law by the governor, the legislation would prohibit life insurance, long-term care insurance or disability insurance carriers from declining or limiting coverage to living organ or marrow donors.

In addition, the House bill would provide hundreds of millions to make up for a shortfall in special education funding, something school administrators and the Minnesota School Boards Association pushed for at a Monday news conference. The shortfall in the current school year is expected to be up to $822 million, the group said in citing Minnesota Department of Education data. The House bill calls for $1.4 billion in funding going into the year 2025.

The Senate proposal, sponsored by Lino Lakes Republican Roger Chamberlain, does not call for significant new spending and instead pushes to boost reading proficiency scores. Senators last week passed an education proposal that aims to improve literacy in the state’s public schools by directing school boards to develop plans to get 90% of third-graders reading at grade level. It also appropriates $30 million for training programs aimed at training teachers to improve student reading scores.

“If you can't read you're going to have problems in school," Chamberlain told the committee. "We all know that 50% of our kids aren't reading at grade level they become disruptive with behavioral problems and eventually probably drop out of school and sadly many of them end up in the criminal justice system.”

Chamberlain acknowledged mental health issues are becoming worse among youth, but pointed to social media's impact as one of the main culprits.

GOP lawmakers say the state has already increased education spending by large amounts since 2017. The Legislature successfully passed a $1.1 billion increase in school funding in 2021, as well as the biggest increase to the funding formula in 15 years.

As the Legislature enters its last two weeks of the regular session, lawmakers are entering their final push to get major policy and spending proposals to the governor’s desk. Major packages known as omnibus bills for public safety, taxes and education are currently the subject of negotiations between the Senate and House in conference committee. There is a chance that elected representatives won’t be able to reach an agreement on all policy areas by May 23, the last day of the session.

Meanwhile, an even year at the state Capitol would traditionally mean state lawmakers would try to pass bonding bills to borrow money for public infrastructure projects across the state. While lawmakers in both chambers have been considering spending proposals on their capital investment committees, neither the Senate nor the House has taken up a bill yet.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
What to read next
The call to defend abortion rights animates the DFL convention Friday night in Rochester.
Friends and colleagues attending the funeral for Blomkest firefighter Ryan Leif Erickson remembered him as a man who always “showed up” where he was needed. Erickson's funeral was Friday in Willmar.
Investigators at the scene identified the area outside where the confrontation occurred, finding the bat, scuff marks, a pool of blood and a small lock blade knife.
Breaking News
Both chambers of the Minnesota Legislature on Friday approved a plan to rewrite the state's liquor laws to boost the amount breweries can produce and still offer to-go sales from their taprooms.