With a $1.87 billion surplus expected, students, educators and some state lawmakers are calling for the state’s windfall to be invested in education.
Of the surplus, Gov. Mark Dayton and state Legislature will be able to divvy up $1.2 billion. The remaining funding will go back into the state’s reserve and environmental funds.
At a Thursday rally — the same day Dayton announced the $1.87 billion boon — speakers called for some or all of it to go toward education in the state.
“A surplus is an opportunity,” said Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul at Thursday’s event at University Baptist Church in Dinkytown. “It gives us a chance to invest back into ourselves, invest in education and into the education of our children.”
He said this issue will move fast and concerned Minnesotans should contact legislators about funneling the surplus toward education.
Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis said while there are many potential ways to spend the additional funds, like tax refunds, one her biggest priorities was student debt and the reinstatement of a tuition freeze at the University of Minnesota.
Speakers at the event, hosted by University of Minnesota Academics United, called for the surplus to be invested in education and to help close the achievement gap among Minnesota students.
At the rally, University Physics graduate student and teacher’s assistant Jarrett Brown said he’s noticed a need for decreased class sizes and more instructors at the University — changes that could be possible with extra state funding.
Associate history professor Eva von Dassow said students are pressured to graduate in four or five years to avoid amassing more debt, which causes students to struggle with heavy course loads, multiple jobs, and stress that that could their ability to learn.
“It’s way too early to make a prediction of what Gov. Dayton will do with the budget surplus,” said Minnesota Office of Higher Education Commissioner Larry Pogemiller. “The history of Dayton and higher education has been good but not perfect.”