Education Bill Passes Senate

Saint Paul, MN – Minnesota’s students will be provided more opportunities in school thanks to the Senate Education Omnibus bill passed today. The bill will bring an additional $361 million for the state’s education network and invests in four primary areas: a basic formula increase, early childhood education/school readiness, school facilities and teacher development/QComp investments.

“I think everyone wishes we could have put more on the basic formula,” said State Senator Vicki Jensen (DFL-Owatonna). “But this bill brings together a lot of very good programs and initiatives to help give our kids more opportunities in and out of the classroom.”

One of the major provisions reforms how schools fund upgrades and maintenance, a measure that will particularly help rural districts. A new long-term facilities maintenance revenue program will replace three outdated programs—alternative facilities, deferred maintenance, and health and safety. Drawn from recommendations of the School Facilities Financing Working Group, the new program will provide long-term maintenance funding for all school districts statewide.

The bill also focuses on technology and career development, a major focus of the session for Sen. Jensen. The legislation includes several measures sponsored by Jensen. One provides funds for a robotics program that will allow classrooms access to this important hands-on learning opportunity in an expanding high-tech field. Another makes information technology training available to provide schools the opportunity to implement an IT Certification program as a part of their curriculum. The programs would grant students professional IT certifications that are immediately translatable to both employment and college credit.

According to a career and technical education inventory report from earlier this year, only 1.5%, or 3,337, of our 9th-12th grade population is participating in an IT career and technical education program. On top of that, only .6% of our students participate in work-based learning, and a mere .2% participate in apprenticeships. These are problems the Education bill is working to address.

“We’ve heard time and time again in committee from business owners about the skills gap in Minnesota,” added Sen. Jensen. “This bill starts putting the pieces in place for our students to get the skills that will be necessary to succeed after high school, whether that be in the workforce or in college.”

The omnibus bill includes several other pieces of legislation from Sen. Jensen, two of which are important local issues. The provisions included are:

• Owatonna Referendum: Correcting an error from a 2013 referendum for the Owatonna School District to provide an additional $1.8 million to the school district.
• State Academies Technology Initiative: This will provide $1.2 million to the State Academies for the Deaf and Blind to provide much-needed technology upgrades.
• Ag Educator Grants: This will help schools pay for summer education programs in agriculture. It will provide cash for hiring teachers to teach the “hands on” side of agriculture that can’t be done effectively during the school year.

For questions on this or any other legislation, please contact Senator Jensen at 651-296-9457 or at vickij@senate.mn.

Senator Vicki Jensen
Vicki Jensen represents District 24 in southeastern Minnesota. She is the vice chair of the Commerce Committee.

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