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Civics engagement requirement added to omnibus E-12 education policy bill

Members of the House Education Policy Committee begin taking amendments to the omnibus education policy bill March 13. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Following two days of testimony on the omnibus E-12 education policy bill, the House Education Policy Committee began taking up amendments Wednesday.

The committee voted on more than a dozen of the 28 proposed amendments to HF1711, and approved seven, many of which were relatively technical or provided clarifying language.

The committee is scheduled to act on more amendments tomorrow, and take action on the bill.

One that was approved came from Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City), which builds on language that would require students to take civics during grade 11 or 12. The amendment adds that, as part of the course, students must participate in a public engagement activity such as volunteering as an election judge, participating in a nonprofit organization or registering to vote.

“Learning by doing is important,” he said.

An amendment offered by Rep. Dave Baker (R-Wilmar), which would have nullified the proposed exemption allowing districts to start school before Labor Day in 2020 and 2021, was not successful. Baker explained that the post-Labor Day start date is beneficial for student employees and crucial for the success of the travel and tourism industry.  

“I want you to understand how important it is to the hospitality around Minnesota, and to the employees that are needed to operate these businesses that are on a very limited window of time to make money,” he said. “Losing that last week in those two years will really, really hurt these businesses.”

The bill’s sponsor and committee chair, Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL-Hopkins), opposed the amendment explaining the current provision is a compromise from a proposal that would have entirely repealed the mandatory post-Labor Day start law.

“This just merely gives the exemptions for the next two years,” she said. 

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