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Disciplinary practices, cursive requirement among policy differences in education finance bills

A view of Monday's meeting of the Conference Committee on HF2400. Photo by Paul Battaglia

There were plenty of questions Tuesday, but not much debate, as conferees began reviewing language differences between the House and Senate versions of the omnibus education finance bill.

The HF2400 conference committee resumed its work with a side-by-side comparison of both proposals outlined by nonpartisan fiscal and research staff.

Conferees, including bill sponsors Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Mpls) and Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester), agreed that certain provisions will need to be revisited as the process continues.

One such proposal, included in the House bill, would require school administrators and staff to intervene and redirect a student’s negative or disruptive behavior using non-exclusionary practices, rather than turning toward suspension or expulsion. 

Nelson said administrators have expressed concern that could prohibit teachers from effectively managing their classrooms.

“There does come point where keeping that child in a school setting would be disrupting the learning of other students and also tying the hands of the school professionals,” she said. “So we’ll want to delve into that a little further.”

Much of the language pertains to students with disabilities, explained Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL-Hopkins), who are excluded from classrooms at a disproportionately higher rate. She added positive behavior modeling and support services are more effective at correcting behavioral issues than using suspension and expulsion.

A Senate-only provision that drew questions from House conferees would set the groundwork to bring Pathways in Technology Early College high schools to Minnesota. Nelson explained they’re created through public-private partnerships and work within, or collaboratively, with high schools.

“I’m intrigued that you described it as a school-within-a-school program, because both the local and national advocates that have spoken with me about it described it as new schools in districts,” Davnie said.

Time permitting, Nelson indicated she would arrange testifiers and provide data on the program and how it works.

Other provisions included the House proposal but absent from the Senate version include:

  • requiring the Department of Education to adopt a comprehensive sexual education model. School districts must either adopt the model or adopt their own model and submit it to the department;
  • several changes to the state’s teacher licensure system including limiting Tier 1 and Tier 2 licensure renewals, and prohibiting lower-tiered teachers from providing a student with ongoing instruction; and
  • defining and outlining student journalist rights to freedom of the press in school-sponsored media.

Other provisions included the Senate proposal but absent from the House version include:

  • directing the Department of Education to develop an elementary English language arts model curriculum that is designed to enable students to develop legible cursive handwriting skills by the end of the fifth grade;
  • requiring districts to provide military recruiters and representatives of skilled trades with the same access to secondary students as prospective employers and higher education recruiters; and
  • authorizing nonpublic students in grade 10 to participate in PSEO career and technical courses.

Conferees are scheduled to meet again Wednesday at noon to finish walking through the side-by-side comparison. They plan to also take up early childhood finance and policy provisions within their respective bills.

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