- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota schools that were able to hire support staff with $12 million in grant money say they’re seeing the impact of having the additional support.

Almost 80 Minnesota schools were able to hire social workers, counselors, nurses and psychologists thanks to the grant money given in November, Minnesota Public Radio (https://bit.ly/2tiHydg ) reported.

Counselor Jessalin Karsnia used to split her time between two schools in the West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan district, but is now full-time at Somerset Elementary School. She said it allows her to teach lessons on topics like sharing, friendship and anti-bullying once a week in each classroom.

It also makes her available to meet with students any day of the week.

“To say you can only have problems on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when I was maybe at that building, is not fair for anyone,” Karsnia said.

Fridley previously had no social workers in its district, but the grant allowed it to hire one at each of its schools.

At Fridley’s alternative program, the newly hired social worker even goes to court with students who have chronic absenteeism.

“She has really been able to connect students to resources that they might not even have known they need,” said principal Amy Cochran.

Minnesota puts the least amount of money toward school support than any other state. The state spent about 2.7 percent of education money on student support in 2015, compared 5.6 percent nationally.

When including the matching funds districts are required to contribute, the state education department estimates more than $29 million was spent on support staff last year. But it doesn’t move Minnesota out of last place for student support spending.

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org

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