Our opinion: Solidify plan sooner than later

Published 6:17 pm Tuesday, March 21, 2023

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Now that the universal school meals bill has been signed by Gov. Tim Walz and students in Minnesota will be getting free breakfast and lunch meals starting at the beginning of the next academic school year, the Legislature now has to determine how compensatory funds will be relegated to school districts next year.

Up until now those funds were determined by the free and reduced lunch program. Families under a certain household income qualified for the program and applications equated to state dollars for schools.

Because districts knew what they were getting in free and reduced lunch funding a year ahead of time there is some room to find  a solution that replaces that and the governor and legislature are currently working that problem. But there can’t be room for hedging. Schools have to have an answer sooner than later.

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This new bill was only just signed by Walz on Friday and there haven’t been many details released yet, but we urge them to take action quickly and decisively. 

A delay could put districts in a bind if that funding isn’t made available.

Districts rely on this funding as it counts toward revenue for the school district. An absence or bottleneck of these funds could potentially force some tough decisions on districts later on down the line. While perhaps not a directly equal comparison, we are seeing something similar in the legislature’s gridlock on infrastructure spending.

Schools can’t afford a prolonged wait and need to see a scenario in terms of funding. They need that funding to plan out budgets in school years to come and only a clear scenario put forth by the legislature will do that.

Again, there is some time to work out a comprehensive plan and we are certainly encouraged that work is being done, but let’s not take a chance. Get a plan in place, refine it and solidify it and not leave anything to  chance.