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Students in residential facilities could have better access to extra learning opportunities

Students admitted to residential care and treatment facilities can find themselves falling behind academically and, unlike many of their peers, they have limited access to extra learning opportunities.

Sponsored by Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL-Hopkins), HF725, as amended, aims to provide more education equity for students in residential facilities.

The bill was held over by the House Education Finance Committee Thursday for possible omnibus bill inclusion. The companion, SF782, awaits action by the Senate Education Finance and Policy Committee. Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes) is the sponsor.

Currently, districts can receive state aid in the form of extended time revenue when they provide academic opportunities outside of the regular school day. These summer school, afterschool and weekend programs help students who otherwise may be falling behind stay on track.

However, school districts that provide extended learning services to students who have been placed in residential facilities do not qualify for these funds. This creates a gap in services in which students who are among the most vulnerable are unable to receive equitable access to the same learning opportunities as their peers.

“Many of these students also need extra time and attention to address learning loss,” Youakim said.

The proposal would allow all school districts, including intermediate districts and cooperatives, to qualify for extended time revenue when they provide summer programming to students who have been placed in a children’s residential facility.

The estimated cost would be $930,000 in fiscal year 2022 and $1 million annually going forward, if all students currently enrolled in a care or treatment program participate in extended learning opportunities, according to nonpartisan House fiscal staff.

The proposal is especially important now given the growing mental health needs of students, according to Connie Ross, residential programs administrative director for North Homes Children and Family Services.

“During the summer, when children admit to residential programs and we don’t have an extended school time available to students, we see them fall behind,” Ross said. “This is truly regrettable as we know each could be using this time to not simply keep up on their education, but to make substantial educational gains.”

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