At its core, the omnibus education policy bill is an attempt to address the state’s severe educational opportunity and achievement gaps for students of color and low-income students, according Rep. Ruth Richardson (DFL-Mendota Heights).
She sponsors HF1081, which includes several provisions that aim to diversify the teacher workforce, reduce the use of exclusionary-discipline practices and increase student mental health supports.
“We know in Minnesota that we have some of the worst disparities in the nation as it relates to education,” Richardson said. “This bill is about taking some steps forward to address that.”
The bill was approved, as amended, on an 11-8 party-line vote, and now heads to the House Education Finance Committee. The companion, SF1662, is sponsored by Sen. Chuck Wiger (DFL-Maplewood) and awaits action by the Senate Education Finance and Policy Committee.
Successful and unsuccessful amendments
Prior to approval, the committee took up several amendments, approving all but one.
Richardson successfully offered an amendment that, along with other changes, removed a provision requiring homeschool parents to submit proof that their student’s testing plan had been fulfilled along with a copy of their scores.
An amendment from Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL-New Hope) would retain the pathway that allows Tier 2 licensure holders with three years of teaching experience and evidence of positive summative evaluations to obtain a Tier 3 license, if they are in a particular shortage area.
“A big emphasis is to make sure we address the issues that were raised by individuals that believed it would be cutting out teachers of color and we do need to retain those teachers,” he said.
Republicans opposed the amendment because of the stipulation that it applies only to educators that teach in shortage areas.
“This undermines the intent to allow every effective teacher to move up to Tier 3 if they hold the most valuable of all qualifications, which is proven effectiveness in the classroom,” said Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton).
Erickson unsuccessfully offered a delete-all amendment she said was a collaborative effort by the GOP caucus in education policy.
“This is the way we look at reopening our schools, recovering the lost learning and closing the achievement gap,” she said. “We also include protecting our teachers and having a way to recruit and retain them.”
The proposal included provisions that would prohibit the governor from being able to alter school schedules, curtail school activities or order schools closed. Other measures would have required the Department of Education to develop a process for measuring pandemic-related learning loss, codified a code of ethics for teachers, and prohibited the hiring or firing of a teacher based on seniority.
Several DFL members expressed opposition, particularly around language related to the use of substitute teachers, as well as student dismissals. Rep. Heather Edelson (DFL-Edina) also took exception to language under an article entitled, “Empowering Parents and Students.”
“I just want to be very clear that I have many concerns with the amendment that is before us. One of the most concerning though for me is … what we would call ‘school choice,’” she said. “When we look at history … going down this path has shown us that this is not a good idea.”