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Omnibus education policy bill is unveiled, gets high marks from some

(House Photography file photo)

Minnesota’s goal to provide a world-class education to all students in a safe, nurturing environment, while recognizing and incorporating diversity in curriculum and hiring more teachers of color, are some important elements of the 2022 House omnibus education policy bill, supporters say.

It would modify academic standards requirements, include compulsory instruction in ethnic studies, prioritize alternative student discipline provisions, institute new policies to empower American Indian students, and amend the student bullying statute requiring school boards to address malicious and sadistic conduct.

The House Education Policy Committee received a walkthrough of the delete-all amendment to HF3401 Wednesday and took testimony. Rep. Ruth Richardson (DFL-Mendota Heights), the committee chair and bill sponsor, said members would further discuss the bill Friday.

Its companion, SF2822, sponsored by Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes), awaits action by the Senate Education Finance and Policy Committee.

“The proposals in this bill focus on centering the whole child in all that we do, and builds Minnesota’s world-class education to a safe and welcoming environment with caring and qualified teachers so that students as unique individuals are seen, valued and heard as they come into our school buildings every day,” said Education Commissioner Heather Mueller.

She highlighted the prohibition of dismissals for young students, and other non-exclusionary disciplinary policies, as a step in the right direction and said missing instruction is detrimental to learning and students’ subsequent achievement.

“We know students need to be in a classroom to succeed academically,” Mueller said.

She also supports the plan to hire more teachers of colors to better reflect the Minnesota communities and enrich the education Minnesota kids receive, adding that the bill’s inclusion of ethnic studies standards complements that.

The ethnic studies requirement was opposed in written testimony by the Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators and Home School Legal Defense Association. Both organizations argue the requirement infringes on the rights of parents, who have agreed to meet the basic requirements listed in the compulsory school attendance statue, to provide the best education to their children as they see fit.

Matt Shaver, policy director for EdAllies, praised the bill’s provision to address teacher shortages and prioritize grants for efforts to induct, mentor, and retain teachers color and those of American Indian heritage. He also favors the elimination of limits, or the “gag rule” on information posted by high schools about the postsecondary institutions, their course offerings and credit equivalency. Students will greatly benefit from the change, he said.

And he liked the bill’s proposal to prohibit non-exclusionary discipline practices and to give a written notification to the parents of students facing suspension.

Other notable provisions in the bill would:

  • require at least one hour of programming to mark Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which would replace Columbus Day as a state holiday;
  • modify the definition of “American Indian,” allowing students who would otherwise be counted in the two more races category to continue to be counted as “American Indian” as per state definition;
  • allow educational data to be disclosed to tribal nations about tribally enrolled or descendant students;
  • prohibit a district from adopting a name, symbol, or image of an American Indian tribe, custom, or tradition as a mascot, nickname, logo, letterhead, or team name of the district or school;
  • allow an American Indian student to carry a medicine pouch containing loose tobacco intended for observance of traditional spiritual or cultural practices;
  • add art to list of required statewide standards;
  • require students in ninth grade beginning in the 2023-24 school year to complete a personal finance course for credit during their senior year of high school;
  • modify the student bullying statute and require school boards to address malicious and sadistic conduct;
  • modify reference to a school’s agriculture program to include food and natural resources education;
  • establish grants to close educational opportunity gaps;
  • require school officials to give suspended students the opportunity to complete all school work assigned during the suspension and receive full credit for the assignments;
  • eliminate exclusion of Tier 1 teachers from definition of “teacher,” allowing Tier 1 teachers to be in the same bargaining unit as other teachers for purposes of collective bargaining;
  • remove the skill test requirements for Tier 4 license and eliminating Tier 3 and Tier 4 pedagogy and content exam requirements for candidates who have completed board-approved preparation programs, and candidates who have completed preparation programs in other states where they have passed licensure examinations;
  • require collective bargaining agreements for teachers to include provisions for due process forms and procedures for teachers working with students receiving special education services;
  • raise the earning limit of a school board member who is employed by the school district from $8,000 to $20,000 annually; and
  • substitute reference to “free and reduced-price lunches” with “free and reduced-price meals.”

The following are selected bill have been incorporated in part or in whole into the omnibus education policy bill.

 

 


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