The Senate Republican E-12 Omnibus Education Bill proposed this week would cut school budgets over the next two years and ignores basic needs of schools as the state emerges from the pandemic.
For the first time in decades, the bill doesn’t increase the Basic Funding Formula, the main education program funding source for schools. Instead, the bill contains a voucher scheme that would cost public schools close to $300 million by Fiscal Years 24-25. The bill also ignores the widening special education and English language learner funding gap, putting district budgets in jeopardy and creates serious budget concerns for districts.
The bill also contains harmful policy provisions, including a requirement that discriminates transgender students, allows untrained people to substitute in Minnesota classrooms and loosens educator training and academic requirements. It ignores the increasing need for school support staff such as counselors and social workers and leaves over 4,000 Minnesota children without access to free PreK programs. As Minnesota moves beyond the pandemic, schools need the best and brightest in their classrooms to help students move beyond learning loss.
The governor would also not be allowed to close schools during a peacetime emergency, including snowstorms and other bad weather.
Maybe the most egregious provision is the thinly veiled “Educational Savings Account” which is really a voucher program that siphons public school dollars to private schools. It would allow parents to pay for new computer equipment with state funds and E-12 money be used to pay for post-secondary education tuition. Fiscal analysis of the proposal estimates that by 2024-25, it would cost the state $300 million in public money with the assumption that parents would pull their children from private school, put them in public school for one semester and then return them to private school to take advantage of the voucher money.
Finally, the bill would discriminate against transgender students and force school districts to base sprots team placement based on their identity. (SF 960)