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Legislative Update (2-26-21)

Friday, February 26, 2021

Neighbor- 

Today, Minnesota Management & Budget issued a new state economic forecast which projects a $1.6 billion surplus for the 2022-23 budget cycle. This is a sharp turnaround from the $1.3 billion shortfall projected in December for the same period.  

While the bottom-line-number looks great on paper, there are some details that should remain cause for concern. We need to take a closer look to see how much of this surplus is padded by federal spending. So, left pocket or right pocket, taxpayers will feel the burden one way or another.

The only way to fix this for the long term is to get state spending in line. Our General Fund budget was around $34 billion 10 years ago and now, the governor’s budget proposal is for $52.4 billion with $1.7 billion in tax increases. This is simply an unsustainable trajectory and I’m concerned what this fiscal insanity will mean for our future – and the bill we will be handing to the next generations of Minnesotans. 

MMB said the turnaround is due, in large part, to an improved U.S. economic outlook that is bolstered by large federal actions that have emerged since November and were not incorporated in earlier projections. The projected surplus also is related to a higher revenue forecast, lower state spending, and an increased surplus for the current fiscal year.  

Social studies standards

I continue receiving numerous questions regarding new social studies standards our state will be setting for our children’s education. This process takes place once every 10 years, including this year. 

These state academic standards include benchmarks, of which is the “specific knowledge or skill that a student must master to complete part of an academic standards.” Three standards drafts are to be made public prior to implementation and the first draft was issued in November.  

There are numerous reasons for concern over the direction that first draft takes. First of all, it reads like a political statement focused on identity politics and decentering “whiteness” while portraying racism and slavery as uniquely European or American concepts.  

The initial draft standards drew swift criticism for not only what was included in the draft, but also excluded. The first draft is 35 pages, and makes no mention of the Holocaust, with very little discussion on America's role in World War 1 or World War II. For example, a quick search for the term “World War” yields 145 hits in the 2011 version. A search for the same keywords in the 2021 first draft produces only four hits. 

The absence of these major historical events is not the only concern, but also the context of those events. The current standards draft appears to force a narrative on how certain groups were impacted by events without any context to those events, or even basic understanding of the events. 

Several House Republican members co-signed submitted a letter to the Commissioner of Education highlighting objections. Additionally, bills have been filed placing a moratorium on the new standards (HF351) and suspending and restarting the proposed social studies standards (HF1146). 

Those assembling the standards have assured critics that these oversights will be addressed in future drafts and we need to hold them to their promise. It remains crucial that citizens of our state and nation have a full awareness of our history – the good, the bad and the ugly. It would be a disservice to our society to delete certain events from our textbooks in the name of convenience or political correctness. 

Watch for more as this process unfolds. A second draft was due in February, but now appears delayed until May, with the third and final draft not expected until late summer. After the release of each draft, there should be a public comment period. The next one will not be at least until May, so your best bet for weighing in now is to contact your local school board. Here is a link to the main Dept. of Education page on social studies standards with additional information on this subject. 

-Steve 

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