A high-quality education for every student everywhere and of every background is worth the investment it takes, Gov. Tim Walz told Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District staff members Tuesday.
Walz, state Commissioner of Education Mary Cathryn Ricker and Superintendent Theresa Battle all spoke during an all-staff event kicking off the new school year at Burnsville High School. Many of their remarks touched on similar themes, including the value and importance of the district’s diversity.
Walz said he was proud of the 2% boost in per-student state aid to districts that came out of this year’s legislative session but called it a “down payment” that should lead to more, according to a recording of his remarks provided by the governor’s office.
Walz and others, including Burnsville-Eagan-Savage leaders, had pushed for a larger increase but compromised with Senate Republicans’ even lower initial proposal.
“If you’re supporting teachers, you’re supporting Minnesota,” Walz said. “If you’re supporting teachers, you’re supporting students. If you’re supporting teachers, you’re supporting economic growth.”
The governor and commissioner, who leads the Department of Education, are both former public school teachers, which Walz said was a first in state history.
He said issues such as housing and hunger that seem separate are nonetheless tightly linked to education and students’ success, meaning the state must make progress in all of those areas, drawing applause from the crowd. He also said giving schools the resources they need makes them safer.
“We don’t take this lightly,” Walz said.
Burnsville-Eagan-Savage, which has one of the region’s most diverse student bodies, has struggled in recent years with budget cuts and concerns about racism in some schools.
The district has cut several millions of dollars in recent years in spending on athletics, teacher salaries and other areas. Enrollment is falling, leading the board to call for a public vote on a higher levy in November and to consider closing several schools.
Board members and other officials have also blamed a shortfall in state and federal money, particularly for special education.
Battle, who stepped into her role in July, emphasized the importance of working together as a team.
“We can fulfill our mission to educate each child if we work collaboratively, pursue excellence in all we do, act in a trustworthy manner and value the virtuosities and vulnerability of each person,” she said, according to her prepared remarks. “We are stronger and better together.”
Walz echoed the sentiment, saying Minnesota’s diversity in its classrooms will set it apart.
Walz spokesman Teddy Tschann on Thursday said Walz visits schools all over the state, and Tuesday’s visit was his first to the Burnsville district.