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Walz unveils education plan centered on pandemic and equity

January 25, 2021 GMT

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Tim Walz on Monday released the education portion of his budget proposal, aiming to address short- and long-term effects of the pandemic while putting the focus on racial equity and inclusion.

The plan, named the Due North Education Plan, attempts to address the pandemic’s toll on school systems statewide by expanding academic programs and mental health services starting in the summer of 2021 that will last throughout the following school year, and by providing a one-time investment to schools to prevent an impact due to enrollment loss during the pandemic.

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Walz, a former public school teacher, said during a media briefing on Monday that the proposal aims to also reduce racial inequity in Minnesota schools. Those measures include the creation of an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Center within the state education department, recruitment and retention of more diverse teachers, and anti-bias training for school staff.

“That isn’t only a moral imperative to fix, but an economic imperative to fix for the state,” he said. “Ensuring that every child, regardless of skin color or ZIP code had the opportunity to get a world-class education.”

The plan would also aim to expand rigorous coursework opportunities to rural students and divert funding to “students that need it the most.”

The state will have to address a projected $1.3 billion budget shortfall as lawmakers and the governor come to terms on a budget this legislative session. While Senate Republicans have said they won’t agree to any raises in taxes to balance the budget, the governor is expected to propose an increase in taxes in the coming days.

Rep. Ron Kresha of Little Falls, the GOP lead on the House education committee, criticized the Democratic governor’s plan as “heavy on talking points” and devoid of meaningful initiatives that would improve student performance in the classroom.

“This plan is crafted by organizations that have obstructed progress and choices for students and families, and is a recipe for failure,” Kresha said in a statement. “Indoctrinating students with messages that focus on our country’s flaws won’t raise the percentage of kids reading at grade level.”

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Mohamed Ibrahim is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.