PASSED AND SIGNED INTO LAW
School safety grants – HF 4425
The bonding bill appropriates a modest $25 million in school safety grants for facility upgrades. Grant recipients are prohibited from using the money to hire personnel like school counselors or resource officers. The grants are to be distributed between the metro area and rural Minnesota and provide up to $500,000 per school.
DID NOT PASS
Academic balance – SF 3086
Republican lawmakers tried to create a controversial “academic balance” policy for public and charter schools. It would require school boards to adopt a written policy that at a minimum prohibits discrimination against students based on “political, ideological or religious beliefs.” The policy directs the department of education to:
- Prohibit school district employees from requiring students “to publicly identify their personal beliefs, views and values for academic credit or extra-curricular participation.”
- Require districts to conform with collective bargaining agreements and the Pupil Fair Dismissal Act.
- Require districts to publish their respective written policies online during the 2018-19 school year, distribute copies to district employees, and include it in subsequent years in student handbooks.
- Allocate $25,000 to the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) to review a sample of the policies adopted by school boards and provide a report to the Legislature by January 18, 2019.
Star rating system – SF 3086
Republican lawmakers tried to create a star rating system to track student achievement, academic growth, and achievement gap closure rates in school districts. Multiple education organizations opposed the idea, including the Minnesota Parent Teacher Association.
DFL amendment to fund school safety
DFL Senators attempted to fund school safety improvements via Senate Republicans’ tax bill by introducing an amendment to eliminate estate tax cuts for multi-millionaires. The DFL plan converts the existing safe schools levy to an all-aid program, made charter schools eligible, and increased the amount of pass-through revenue available to districts to help schools hire more counselors, officers, sheriffs. The plan would also spend more money on gang-resistance education and anti-drug programs, student and staff safety, school nurses and psychologists, chemical dependency counselors, and other facility enhancements. Republican Senators killed the amendment on a party-line vote.
Supplemental budget – SF 3536
“In God We Trust” signage
This controversial policy gives school boards the option to display the words “In God We Trust” on a poster, framed copy, or mounted plaque in taxpayer-funded public schools. Signage could be paid for by private fundraising instead of tax dollars.
Emergency school aid
Republican lawmakers’ supplemental budget completely ignored Governor Dayton’s plan to appropriate $137 million in emergency school aid, which he introduced in response to reports of imminent budget shortfalls at dozens of school districts. As a result, classrooms sizes will continue to grow, which means kids will receive less individualized attention.
Republicans missed an opportunity to adequately fund schools and instead sided with multi-national corporations. DFL Senators offered an amendment to the tax bill to require the collection of taxes on profits that corporations have been sheltering overseas. The amendment would have spent $138 million of this repatriated corporate income on emergency aid for school districts across the state. Republicans ruled the amendment out of order on a party-line vote.
Governor Dayton’s plan would have provided a 2% formula increase, or $126 per student, to all districts. The appropriation equaled 41% of the budget surplus, which is roughly the same percentage of education spending in the state’s general fund.
Republicans’ supplemental budget spent $28 million on schools, a meager 8.8% of the surplus. It also re-allocated $2.8 million from current programs to finance other small initiatives. Their budget provided ongoing safe schools aid to school districts and charter schools, but at an amount of just $5.50 more per student, setting a minimum floor of aid at $30,000 per school district. The budget did include one-time funding for the 2019 fiscal year of $18 per student for safe schools initiatives. The bulk Republicans’ budget went to safe schools initiatives, but made funding available for only a single year.
Republicans punted on other pressing needs, too, such as funding for special education cross-subsidies, pre-Kindergarten programs, and Bureau of Indian Affairs school funding.
One-time safe schools revenue
The budget appropriates one-time safe schools revenue in FY 2019 for school districts and charter schools, which would have received an additional $18 per student.
Safe schools levy
The budget holds the levy at $36 per student but allows school districts to combine safe schools revenue with their levy dollars. Districts that are members of intermediate districts would have also received an additional $15 per student in levy authority.
- The safe schools aid could be used to enhance cybersecurity, pay for school-linked mental health services delivered by telemedicine, and for debt service.
- A provision in the bill preserved the pass-through levy for school districts that are members of intermediate school districts, which means they have access to funding.
- Schools would be allowed to issue bonds using their safe schools revenue as collateral to purchase public announcement systems, emergency communications devices, and other security equipment.
- School districts could also transfer safe schools revenue into their debt redemption fund to pay for the share of any bonds that were used to finance facility security enhancements.
- School Safety Assessment Teams:School districts would be required to establish school safety assessment teams to conduct safety assessments and provide guidance to school staff and students on potential threatening situations. The budget appropriates $150,000 in FY 2019 for this expenditure.
- Equalized levy:The budget equalizes the safe schools levy at a higher rate for districts in FY 2020-2021 only. Minimal equalization changes would affect the poorest school districts.
- School-linked mental health grants:The budget appropriates $5 million for school mental health grants.
The budget appropriates $2.8 million in FY 2018-2019 for grants to small education programs for specific schools or programs which were requested mainly by Republican lawmakers. Funds reallocated from the school consolidation funds and MDE litigation funds are contingent on those funds not being needed for their intended use. The money to finance each was re-allocated or cut from the following funds: Crosswinds Severance Excess Funds cancellation ($800,000); Consolidation Transition Excess Funds ($270,000); Vision Therapy Pilot ($200,000); and MDE litigation funds.
Numerical rating system
Senate Republicans’ star rating system for schools got scrapped in conference committee, but the conferees agreed to keep the House’s numerical rating system for schools. Opponents argue the system is an over-simplification that does not provide sufficient context for families who are comparing schools.
The budget requires students in either grades 11 or 12 to enroll in a civics course beginning the 2020-2021 school year. Districts are required to report the percentage of students who correctly 30 of the 50 requires questions on the civics test.
Fire drill requirements
The budget requires that of the five school fire drills required each year, at least three drills must require an evacuation. It allows public and private schools or educational institutions to implement an alternative fire drill that does not require students or others to quit the premises (evacuate) if they develop and implement non-evacuating fire drill protocols in partnership with the local fire chief or the fire chief’s designee and chief law enforcement officers or their designee.
Teacher Code of Ethics
Republican lawmakers abandoned their controversial “academic balance” policy but included in their budget changes to the Teacher Code of Ethics. It requires teachers to provide professional education services in a “non-discriminatory manner, including not discriminating of the basis of political, ideological or religious beliefs.”
Teacher licensure rule deadline
The budget extends the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) rule deadline to October 1. It is a one-month extension from the original conference recommendation. If the PELSB can’t finish by October 1, temporary rules go into effect. Republican lawmakers insisted on changing the temporary rules and amended cultural competency language and teacher mentorship requirements. Teachers and other education advocates opposed these policies. The budget makes no other changes to tiered licensure.
Student discipline requirements
The budget includes non-exclusionary pupil discipline procedures intended to help students who are expelled or suspended return to school. It requires the continuation of school-linked mental health services to an expelled or suspended student, provides a suspended or expelled student the opportunity to complete missed school work, and requires that a parent or guardian be immediately notified if a student is removed from school property by a peace or school resource officer.