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Omnibus education finance and policy bill clears House

Rep. Jim Davnie, chair of the House Education Finance Committee, comments during the April 19 floor debate on the omnibus E-12 education finance and policy bill. Photo by Paul Battaglia

With a 2% general education funding increase and extended funding for early learning initiatives, the House passed the omnibus education finance and policy bill Monday.

Sponsored by Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Mpls), HF1065, as amended, was passed 73-60 by the House and now heads the Senate, where Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes) is the sponsor.

The $20.8 billion biennial education budget bill includes a $725 million boost in funding for E-12 initiatives.

“It is our opportunity to help assure that all Minnesota children receive the world-class education that they deserve, that we want them to receive, and that we need them to have to build the next Minnesota,” Davnie said.

It includes nearly $400 million during the 2022-23 biennium to increase the general education formula by 2% each fiscal year. It would also increase the formula allowance for fiscal years 2024 and 2025 by 0.5% per year. Beginning in fiscal year 2026, it would increase the basic formula allowance by the annual rate of inflation.

Other notable investments would appropriate $70.1 million to reduce school districts’ special education cross-subsidies, $39.1 million to extend the 4,000 voluntary prekindergarten program seats that are set to expire, and $19.4 million to remove a cap on compensatory education revenue earned by schools with high concentrations of students from low-income families.

Non-exclusionary discipline practices

The bill includes several policy proposals, such as requiring Indigenous education, measures to increase the percentage of teachers of color, and requiring the use of non-exclusionary discipline practices.

Rep. Ruth Richardson (DFL-Mendota Heights) expressed support for a provision that would prohibit the suspension or expulsion of a student in kindergarten through grade three unless non-exclusionary discipline measures have been exhausted and there is an ongoing serious safety threat.

“At a basic level, closing the opportunity gap begins with addressing the reality that our Black, Indigenous students and students with disabilities do not have equitable opportunity to be in the classroom,” she said.

Saying that it usurps local control, Rep. Patricia Mueller (R-Austin) opposes the bill, particularly changes to the tiered-licensing system, and the changes to discipline practices.

“I listened to teachers and to my principals and superintendents who said that non-exclusionary practices are super beneficial and very important to our classrooms,” she said. “However, mandating it and putting it in state statute … makes it near impossible to remove a student from their classroom and is going to make teachers feel like they are running out of options.”

Republicans offer education funding alternative

Rep. Ron Kresha (R-Little Falls) opposes the bill, saying it burdens schools with too many new programs and mandates at a time when educators should be focusing on helping students make up for pandemic-related learning loss.

Rep. Sondra Erickson comments on her proposed amendment to the House omnibus E-12 education finance and policy bill during the April 19 floor debate. Photo by Paul Battaglia

He unsuccessfully offered a delete-all amendment that he described as a pared-down alternative. It, too, included a 2% formula increase, funding for transportation aid, community partnerships and mental health supports – but would have provided less funding overall.

“Why would we offer an amendment that is less than the underlying bill?” he asked. “Because we can’t just keep throwing money at it. … Right now, schools are coming out of a situation where they’re saying, ‘Keep it simple.”

It also contained several policy proposals including expanding and codifying the teacher code of ethics; modifying teacher licensure requirements by repealing the requirement that schools try to hire a Tier 2, Tier 3 or Tier 4 licensed teacher before a Tier 1 licensed teacher; and would have prohibited the use of seniority in the hiring or dismissal of a teacher.

Adopted amendments

Of the nearly 30 amendments that were offered, four were adopted.

Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City) offered a successful amendment that would modify the social studies graduation requirements, ensuring students take civics education while in grades 11 or 12. He also successfully offered an amendment that would expand the mentoring provisions currently in statute by requiring that school districts adopt a mentoring program for new teachers and allowing staff development money to be used to support it.

“We lose 40% of our new teachers within the first five years, and I believe that more support in those first years will retain and lead to better teachers,” he said.

The other two successful amendments would modify reporting requirements for postsecondary institutions that serve high school students, and outline measures geared toward protecting K-12 students when they use technology. They were offered by Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe) and Rep. Eric Lucero (R-Dayton), respectively.

Additional investments and policy provisions

Other initiatives that would receive increased appropriations for the 2022-23 biennium include:

  • $29 million for English language learner cross-subsidy reduction aid;
  • $17.2 million to increase the number of student support personnel;
  • $15.6 million for Grow Your Own grants;
  • $13.3 million for paraprofessional training;
  • $12 million for trauma-informed professional development grants;
  • $10 million for full-service community schools;
  • $6.6 million for the Tribal Early Learning Package;
  • $3 million for kindergarten readiness assessments; and
  • $1.3 million for child care center regulation modernization.

Notable policy provisions would:

  • authorize a school board to renew a previously approved, unchanged referendum, following public testimony; including a process to revoke board approved referendum authority;
  • require districts’ World’s Best Workforce plans to include ethnic studies curriculum, and anti-racist and culturally sustaining curriculum;
  • require a school district or charter school where a student with a seizure disorder is enrolled to have a seizure action plan;
  • require districts that participate in the national school lunch program to adopt a meals policy and provide meals in a respectful manner; and
  • require a paraprofessional assigned to work alone with a student with a disability to be given paid time or time during the school day to review the student’s individualized education program or be briefed on the student’s specific needs.

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