Skip to main content Skip to office menu Skip to footer
Capital IconMinnesota Legislature

Legislative News and Views - Rep. Peggy Bennett (R)

Back to profile

Legislative News from Rep. Peggy Bennett

Friday, March 4, 2022

Hello from St. Paul,


It has been a busy week at the Capitol with mostly committee work again, hearing bills that will be considered for future passage. I will share a few highlights below.


More School Mandates

We have been hearing a lot of education related bills over the past few weeks in the education committees I serve on.  There have been quite a few proposed state mandates for schools among these bills, some funded and some not.  (Mandates mean that all Minnesota public schools would be required to comply without local choice or opt out.) 


Two recent state mandate proposals that we heard in our education policy committee, which I would like to make you aware of, concern requiring certain classwork and instruction for all Minnesota students. I have linked the actual bill language below for your perusal. I would appreciate hearing your feedback on these proposed requirements.


Though I believe some statewide mandates are necessary, I am of the mind that less is better, especially when it involves our schools and children.  I believe that we should do our best to default to local control whenever possible so that those who know their children best – parents, teachers, and locally elected school boards – can make the decisions that best fit their students.


The first bill I’d like to highlight is HF 3434, an ethnic studies requirement for our schoolchildren. This proposed legislation would require all students to successfully complete a semester-long “ethnic studies” course to graduate from high school. It also requires that ethnic studies must be taught in elementary, middle, and charter schools. 


Here is how the bill defines ethnic studies: “Ethnic studies analyzes the ways in which race and racism have been and continue to be powerful social, cultural, and political forces, and the connection of race to other groups of stratification, including gender, class, sexuality, and legal status.”


The ethnic studies bill would also require the Department of Education to hire “dedicated ethnic studies staff” as well as develop “a model ethnic studies curriculum” for school districts to use. The model curriculum must also include “a power, race, class, and gender analysis” and “an intersectional analysis of climate, health, food, housing, education, and policy.”


The second school mandate proposal I would like to highlight is HF 550 which would require “climate justice” instruction for all students in grades 1 – 12.  Here is how the bill defines climate justice: “Climate justice means a framework that puts people first and views the effects of climate change as interconnected with forms of oppression connecting climate change to social and economic justice issues.”  


The bill continues to state that “school districts and charter schools are required to provide climate justice instruction for students in grades 1 through 12 aligned with current scientific research and integrated into existing programs, curriculum, or the general school environment of a district or charter school.”


My concerns with these school mandates are twofold. First, both of these mandate proposals are very politically charged and will end up pitting parents against teachers. Teachers don’t want that. Teachers don’t want to be social justice warriors. They simply want to teach their students.


Secondly, as a state we continue to pour, and attempt to pour, mandate upon mandate onto our schools… ethnic studies (which by the way is already required in our social studies standards), climate justice, K-12 comprehensive sex education, bullying instruction, and the list goes on. 


Many of these issues -and they are important issues - are things that should really be taught at home, but now our teachers are being expected to teach them amidst all the other requirements that they already have to teach. This is not fair to teachers, and it is not sustainable  There is simply not enough time in the school day to teach all these things, much less to teach them well. And by the way, what about reading, writing, and math? These core responsibilities of education simply get pushed more and more to the wayside amidst all of the other requirements. This mandate madness has to stop.


I would like to hear your thoughts on these two mandate bills and school mandates in general.  Please feel free to reply to this email and share your feedback with me. Thank you.



This week, I received notification from Minnesota’s public safety commissioner the Driver and Vehicle Services has reopened all 93 of its exam stations across the state. This includes the station in Albert Lea, which came back on January 20.


This is welcome news. Senator Dornink and I met with Commissioner Harrington early last year after hearing of the extremely long waits local residents were having in getting their driver’s exam appointments.  Thank you to Commissioner Harrington for being responsive and getting these testing stations, including Albert Lea’s, reopened.  



On Thursday, the Minnesota House overwhelmingly approved a bill that would conduct an audit of the Southwest Light Rail Transit project. This is happening due to rail line costs being grossly over budget and consistent delays in construction.


Once touted as a plan that would cost just over $1 billion, when construction actually began in 2018 the cost had ballooned to $2 billion. It was also estimated to begin operations in 2023. Then the Met Council announced that the project will be delayed until 2027 and will cost an additional $450 million to $550 million, pushing the final costs closer to $2.75 billion or $3 billion. In all, the cost is $3,225 per inch of rail line, and that total will likely rise. 


This is complete abuse of taxpayer resources. Recall that we constructed the Northstar Commuter Rail line more than a decade ago. In January it averaged less than 200 riders a day to take people from the northwest Metro into Minneapolis to go to work. With this level of ridership, and because the rail line itself isn’t even close to self-sufficient, the taxpayers subsidize ridership by roughly $1,000 per person, per day.


An amendment was offered to end the state contribution to the Southwest Light Rail Transit project but was not accepted. I shudder to think what nonsense this audit is going to uncover if this bill is signed into law.


I will always fight for transparency in government and the responsible use of taxpayer dollars. Minnesotans deserve that!


Have a good weekend,