Local Educators Talk Mental Health, Safety with Legislators

February 02, 2019 11:12 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- While budgets might cause them to butt heads, educators and legislators have the same end goal.

“It’s our kids future, our futures are dependent upon a high-quality education for our kids,” said Sen. Carla Nelson at Saturday morning’s legislator and school leader breakfast forum in Rochester.


Unfortunately, the devil is in the details and the dollars.

“A lot of the lower per pupil funded districts are in Southeast Minnesota,” said Rep. Duane Quam.

While districts across the region vary in size and needs, there are some things they all have in common.

“Mental health is an issue that all the districts in Southeast Minnesota are dealing with,” said Rochester Public Schools Superintendent, Michael Muñoz.

“I think it’s on everybody’s minds this day and age,” Chatfield Superintendent Ed Harris agreed.

For Kasson-Mantorville Superintendent Mark Matuska, the past year has put the issue front and center.

“Especially after what happened down in Florida last year, safe and secure schools is certainly an area we want to focus on. There are a number of schools who applied for additional dollars, and weren’t able to because that pot of money was a bit smaller,” he said.

“If we can help address mental health concerns early on,” Sen. Nelson said, “we can save a great deal of pain for the people involved, and a great deal of dollars in the public purse as well.”

The region’s growing population is presenting new challenges.

“A lot of us owe money because we built new buildings or we have new facilities that we need to pay for,” Matuska said.

Educators and legislators agree coming together to have these conversations pays off.

“Ag to school credit has been an excellent outcome of legislation the last couple years,” Harris said.

“That stemmed from conversations just like this, not just in our region, but throughout the state,” Matuska said.

With student success as the guiding principle, it’s all about answering the question: ‘how do we get there?’



Alice Keefe

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