This year, we’re doing something together for our students. The state legislature approved the biggest per pupil funding increase in 15 years for our schools, while addressing funding gaps in special education and for our English language learners.

We also made serious investments in recruiting and retaining teachers of color. This recruitment will be important for closing our achievement gaps by race, among the worst in the nation.

I was proud to vote in favor of this funding for our schools. This funding is a promise we make to every child in our state.

On Thursday, I joined the students of Greenvale Park Elementary in Northfield as they started their school year. Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan stopped by and helped Principal Sam Richardson deliver the announcements. Education Commissioner Heather Meuller and her team were there too, fist bumping students as they got off the bus. Superintendent Matt Hillman, School Board Chair Julie Pritchard and Vice Chair Amy Goerwitz, and I, welcomed students and parents, helped point new students in the right direction, and assisted with a few backpacks, shoelaces and masks.

The teachers and staff at Greenvale, as in all schools across the state, were hard at work, building connections and relationships, creating the environment needed for learning and growth.

It was a heartwarming scene. There was laughter and excitement, nervousness, and a few tears on the faces of students and parents alike.

I knelt down to talk with a table of kindergartners busily eating their breakfasts in the lunchroom.

Their skin color was white, brown, and black. Their backpacks and masks were just as colorful, and they were proudly showing them to me. They didn’t know about all of the political debate and tension surrounding this first day of school. They just knew they were on a new adventure, and they were wondering what was next.

As teachers and staff patiently herded these new kindergartners from their breakfast tables to their classroom, I was reminded that the per pupil funding formula debate at the Capitol is always about real students like those kindergartners in front of me.

Through the per pupil funding formula we say to each child, “no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter where your parents are from, we want a bright future for you, and we’re going to support you as you learn, grow, and discover the gifts you have to offer the world.” In Minnesota, there’s no doubt we have work to do to live up this promise. Students in small rural schools, students learning English, students living in families who struggle to make ends meet whether they live in the country or the city, all need us to come together for them. This increase in funding for our schools is a critical step.

I’m proud of the renewed promise we are making to our children, and I’m grateful to our teachers and school staff who work tirelessly to give all of our children our very best.

Todd Lippert, D-Northfield, represents District 20B in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

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