The 2021 legislative session, which began January 5, started with the COVID pandemic still surging, questions about how the legislature will do its work during the pandemic, and a $1.3 billion budget deficit. It ended without a completed state budget, significant funding from the federal government to address COVID, and a more positive budget forecast showing the state had a $1.6 billion budget surplus.
Although the legislature and Governor Walz did not agree to a state budget before the constitutional end of the regular session, they eventually passed a two-year state budget, averting a state government shutdown. However, the legislature will be back in September to take up a proposal to address COVID19 frontline worker pay.
Final E12 agreement
The agreement on the final E12 appropriations bill provided an additional $544 million for the FY22-23 biennium and $675 million for the FY24-25 biennium.
Funding provisions include:
- Per-pupil formula increase of 45 percent in FY22 ($161) and 2.0 percent in FY23 ($296)
- $10.425 million FY22 only in special education cross-subsidy reduction aid
- $2 million per year for four years of additional English Learner supplemental aid
- Continuation of the 4,000 seats for voluntary prekindergarten/school readiness plus for two years only
- $1.75 million in FY22 only for non-exclusionary discipline training grants to provide training for school staff on non-exclusionary disciplinary practices
- $10 million over the biennium for Grow Your Own teacher grants
- $4.5 million of the biennium for mentor and retention incentive grants
- $750,000 in FY22-23 only for Black Men Teach grants
- $3 million for Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) grants in FY22 only
Policy provisions include:
- Requirement for a school district to invite the parents of a student with a disability to a meeting of each IEP team to determine whether special education services and supports are necessary to address the lack of progress on IEP goals or in the general education curriculum due to COVID-19
- Directs MDE and DHS to find strategies to streamline access and reimbursement for medical assistance third-party billing
- Requires districts to provide meals to students in a respectful manner and prohibits them from imposing certain restrictions or limiting a student’s participation in certain activities due to an unpaid student meal debt
- Suspends the implementation of new academic standards until June 1, 2023, but allows the MDE commissioner to continue current rulemaking activities and to develop future statewide assessments
- Annual notice to parents of school district policy on absence from school for religious observances
- Requires districts to use staff development for teacher mentoring
- Requires districts to establish a seizure action plan and training on seizure disorders
Frontline Worker Pay Working Group
The final state budget included an agreement to provide $250 million for COVID frontline worker pay. The bill language accompanying this funding did not stipulate how much would be disbursed individually or what groups of employees this applied to, other than long-term care workers. Instead, the legislature established a working group to hammer out the details. The legislature directed the working group to consider factors including a frontline worker’s increased financial burden and increased risk of virus exposure due to the nature of their work and specifically called out long-term care workers.
The group has been meeting but has no decisions have been made on its final recommendations have. Recommendations must be finalized and sent to the Governor and the legislature by September 6. The next step in the process will be for the Governor to schedule a special session sometime in September so the legislature can pass their recommendations into law.
State budget update
The 2021 fiscal year ended with some positive budget news. Preliminary analysis from Minnesota Management and Budget indicates that the state general fund for FY21, is now 11.2 percent, $2.68 billion, over projection. We must wait until the November budget forecast for the most accurate budget picture, but this is good news.