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Can Minnesota's $9 billion budget surplus fund the demands of striking Minneapolis educators?

Experts say school funding is tied to enrollment, and several districts, including Minneapolis, have had falling enrollment for a decade.

On the second day of the Minneapolis teacher's strike, educators took their message to the capitol.

They rallied on the steps to ask lawmakers to use at least some of the state's $9.25 billion budget surplus to fund their demands.

They're asking for, among other things, reduced class sizes, a living wage and mental health supports.

Funding for K-12 education has gone up for several years, but money is funneled to districts based on the number of students. Enrollment in several districts, including Minneapolis, is going down and has been for about a decade.

"Let's ask where that budget is, where the bills are and let's get the investments rolling into our public schools, the schools our students deserve," said Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota.

"The state legislature is not going to give money to just one school district," said Brian McClung, Governor Tim Pawlenty's former deputy chief of staff.

He says enrollment in Minneapolis Public Schools is down 7.5% from last year, dropping faster than what district leaders projected.

"Minneapolis parents and kids are voting with their feet and they're saying this district is not fulfilling our needs," said McClung. "We’re going to look elsewhere."

He says education dollars are based on enrollment and all types of schools are essentially competing with one another. McClung said despite Minneapolis' decline, Minnesota's divided legislature is still allocating funds to education there and across the state.

"Last year, the state of Minnesota increased K-12 education spending by $525 million over the previous levels, so it was a record amount," said McClung.

The governor has made some suggestions about how to spend the surplus, but McClung said there won't be any decisions, including on funding education, until the end of the legislative session in May. 

"If somebody is holding out hope that the legislature is going to bail out the Minneapolis Public School District and that's going to fix the strike, it's just not going to happen," said McClung.

The district and union leaders met with mediators again on Wednesday and some sessions are planned for later this week.

You can click here to see their schedule, updated contract proposals and what each side is asking for.

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