E-12 EDUCATION

The Senate DFL believes all Minnesotans should have the opportunity to achieve their dreams and that includes a future in which all Minnesotans have a path to success. To ensure quality education in Minnesota, it’s not enough to just maintain the status quo — we need to make smart, significant funding increases in our schools to close the opportunity gaps our children are facing. We must also ensure college and technical schools are an attainable goal to grow and retain the 21st century workforce we need.

COVID-19 bills passed

As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic hit and Governor Walz announced the Peacetime Emergency, the Legislature worked to help schools, students, teachers, and families navigate distance learning and other changes to our educational delivery system. Unfortunately, because the Senate Republicans dragged their feet on discussing an agreement, these provisions could have passed in March to benefit schools but were delayed until May 17.

In the final days of the legislative session, the following COVID-related provisions passed:

Fiscal Impact of the bill:

  • $180,000 in savings due to the waiver of statewide testing requirements in the 2019-20 school year, as well as $9,000 in savings due to a hold-harmless formula adjustment for Developmental Screening aid
  • $49,000 in FY20 for the IT costs related to the implementation of the conditional Tier 3 license and $137,000 in the tails for the extension of the Early Middle College program
  • A delay in revenue related to Achievement and Integration aid that schools would otherwise have been unable to use in FY20 so that they are able to receive that same amount of funding spread out between FY21 and FY22
  • These changes together result in a net savings to the state of $218,000 this biennium and a net cost of $215,000 in the tails

COVID-related provisions to help teachers, schools and students

  • Probationary teacher service day requirement waived: Reduced the service day requirement for probationary teachers interrupted by distance learning
  • Student Statewide testing changes: Statewide testing requirement were waived for the 2019-20 school year
  • Teacher Licensure: The pandemic closed teacher licensure testing facilities and created delays in renewal options. The bill requires the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) to implement a six-month delay process for any renewal requirements
    • New teachers who would otherwise have met the requirements for a Tier 3 license will receive a one-year conditional Tier 3 license without being required to complete the required licensure exams, due to the closure of testing sites
    • Teachers are required to complete necessary exams prior to next summer to receive a full Tier 3 license
  • Fund transfers help school districts cover costs:  The agreementallows fund transfers from unencumbered funds to pay for community education and nutrition costs normally covered by fees
  • Regional libraries: Libraries are allowed to spend regional library telecommunications aid on technology and broadband because of the pandemic and distance learning changes
  • School Fiscal adjustments: School aid formula adjustments for special education, school meals, CTE, nonpublic pupil transportation, desegregation and integration transportation, Literacy aid, School Age care, developmental screening achievement and integration and ABE aids
  • Forecast article: Ensures that the forecast amounts align with changes in fiscal impact for schools

(HF 4415)

Items not passed

With the state facing a pandemic-related budget deficit, prospects for an E-12 supplemental bill evaporated in March. Despite DFL pressure to provide additional provisions for students, the Republicans pushed back and dragged the process until the and a slimmed down version of many DFL-backed policy provisions were passed by the House in the final moments of the legislative session, without enough time left for the Senate to take up the provisions.

Additional E-12 finance provisions passed not related to pandemic

  • Middle college (SLIFE): Deleted the June 30 sunset of the Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education (SLIFE) program who need additional time to receive their high school diplomas
  • Extended time set aside deleted: Deletes the 2017 compensatory extended time set aside passed in 2017 that required districts to set aside a portion of compensatory funds for extended time proposals
  • Fund transfers approved for Marshall County and Ogilvie school districts

Policy Provisions passed

  • School referendum notice extended to 45 days: School referendum notification requirement extension expands the time frame for the operating referendum notice to be delivered to voters by increasing the earliest day of the notice’s delivery from 30 to 45 days prior to the election. This change helps districts as early voting laws have changed
  • Dyslexia screening requirements: Clarifies reporting requirements on district efforts to screen and identify students with characteristics of dyslexia to specify that the annual report must include: a summary of the district’s screening efforts, the number of students screened in that year; and the number of students identified as demonstrating characteristics of dyslexia
  • Unclaimed drug disposal requirements for districts: Provides districts with a process to safely dispose of unclaimed medications and drugs
  • School transportation contract changes: School district transportation contract changes clarifies that school district fuel and transportation contracts are free from the two-year contract negotiation requirements with a ten-year contract cap
  • Teacher mental health training: To help teachers address the mental health crisis in schools, the bill requires that Tier 1 and 2 teachers are required to have mental health retraining for licensure renewal
  • Functional behavioral assessment: Districts may conduct a functional behavioral assessment of a student without a comprehensive evaluation. Parents may request the comprehensive evaluation
  • ADSIS participation allowed: Allows a student who receives special education services to participate in an ADSIS program if the program is in a service area that is not included in the student’s individualized education program
  • Vaping education requirement: Requires public schools to provide vaping prevention instructions at least once during grades 6 through 8 and encourages schools to do the same during grades 9 through 12. Also requires questions about tobacco use and vaping be included in the Minnesota student survey

Early Education changes fought for by DFL members

Age verification requirement change: To verify a child’s age for entrance to PreK, kindergarten, or grades 1-12, a parent or guardian may present a passport, a hospital birth record or physician’s​ certificate, a baptismal or religious certificate, an adoption record, health records,​ immunization records, immigration records, previously verified school records, early​ childhood screening records, Minnesota Immunization Information Connection records, or​ an affidavit from a parent.​

Scholarship participation requirement extended 4 years: In order to be eligible to accept an early childhood scholarship, a program must be 3 or 4-star rated by July 1, 2024.

Limitation on Preschool Suspensions: Requires that school districts not dismiss children participating in PreK programs, unless non-exclusionary discipline options have been exhausted and only in circumstances where there is an ongoing serious safety threat to the child or others.

Tribal agencies addition to intervention committees. Adds tribal health and human service agencies to interagency early intervention committees that coordinate work between school districts, special education cooperatives, counties, early childhood care and education programs, and agencies serving families experiencing homelessness to develop programs to identify and provide care for children with disabilities.

Preschool screening exceptions: Allows an early learning scholarship recipient who receives the scholarship before turning three to delay completion of their developmental screening until up to 90 days after the child’s third birthday. (HF 163)

The Senate DFL members were largely shut out of the education debate this session by the Republican chair. Only three DFL bills were heard – only one authored by a committee member – and none of those passed. The governor’s policy bill was also ignored and never heard during the session.

Essential school workers left out in the cold

Some of the most essential school employees have been hurt the most by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Republicans ensured that they would not get paid during the distance learning weeks at the end of the school year. They refused to hear the bill in the Senate Education Committee, and when an amendment was proposed to add it to a different education bill, that bill was tabled.

According to MDE, there are 20,000 paraprofessionals working in schools across Minnesota. Paraprofessionals are individuals who work in a variety of positions in a school district. Their roles include, but are not limited to, instructional assistants, Title I paraprofessionals, pupil support assistants, special education paraprofessionals, job coaches, lunchroom and playground assistants, hall monitors, media center assistants, and health office assistants.

The bill provided compensation for hourly school employees and allows entities that contract with schools to provide services be reimbursed for paying their employees for changes in school employment practices related to COVID-19 school closures and the conversion to distance learning programs. However, many districts laid off their hourly or contract workers (such as bus drivers). Note that these same school districts had budgeted to pay for these workers and that state aid flowed to their districts despite the pandemic and subsequent layoffs.

Other DFL-supported bills that were shut down by the Republican Senate Majority

Anti-school lunch shaming: A bill with House Republican support that would ensure students with unpaid school lunch debt would still receive meals and not be shamed for their parent’s lack of payment didn’t make it over the finish line again this session. The legislation:

  • Requires districts to have a meal plan policy provided in multiple languages
    • Requires districts to provide meals to participating students in a respectful manner and conform to the school meals policy
    • No meal dumping
    • No debt collection agencies
    • Debt collection communications with parents/guardians, not students

Permanent School Trust fund replacement aid for tribal schools: Each September, Minnesota public schools receive about $30 per student from the Permanent School Trust fund endowment. The bill would have made tribal contract and grant schools eligible for the per pupil aid as well.

American Indian program changes: Requires the MDE commissioner to consult with the Tribal Nations Education Committee when revising the academic standards and make them more inclusive and responsive to native cultures.

Increase Teachers of Color Act: Minnesota’s student population is changing, but its teacher workforce is not. About 30 % of the state’s K-12 students are students of color, but 94% of the teachers are white. Once again, a bill that would set a goal of increasing percentage of Minnesota teachers of color and American Indian teachers by 2% per year with an aim of having teachers reflect student diversity by 2040 was ignored by the Republicans.

First special session update

E-12 policy provisions were on their way to passage during regular session until the House Republicans presented numerous amendments to try and stall the bill. The anti-lunch shaming amendment prompted a House recess, and Sen. Nelson refused to accept the lunch shaming language if it were to be amended on by the House. The bill finally passed without the anti-lunch shaming language but did NOT make the midnight deadline to the Senate for passage. HF33

During special session, the education policy agreement was re-introduced and passed unanimously in the Senate and with minimal opposition in the House. Some important provisions were left out, including lunch-shaming and changes to the Permanent School Trust fund administration, but the provisions passed were necessary for Minnesota schools.

Policy provisions passed:

School referendum notice extended to 45 days: School referendum notification requirement extension expands the time frame for the operating referendum notice to be delivered to voters by increasing the earliest day of the notice’s delivery from 30 to 45 days prior to the election. This change helps districts as early voting laws have changed

Dyslexia screening requirements: Clarifies reporting requirements on district efforts to screen and identify students with characteristics of dyslexia to specify that the annual report must include: a summary of the district’s screening efforts, the number of students screened in that year; and the number of students identified as demonstrating characteristics of dyslexia

Unclaimed drug disposal requirements for districts: Provides districts with a process to safely dispose of unclaimed medications and drugs

School transportation contract changes: School district transportation contract laws are clarified so that school district fuel and transportation contracts are free from the two-year contract negotiation requirements with a ten-year contract cap

Teacher mental health training: To help teachers address the mental health crisis in schools, the bill requires that Tier 1 and 2 teachers are required to have mental health retraining for licensure renewal

Functional behavioral assessment: Districts may conduct a functional behavioral assessment of a student without a comprehensive evaluation. Parents may request the comprehensive evaluation

ADSIS participation allowed: Allows a student who receives special education services to participate in an ADSIS program if the program is in a service area that is not included in the student’s individualized education program

Vaping education requirement: Requires public schools to provide vaping prevention instructions at least once during grades 6 through 8 and encourages schools to do the same during grades 9 through 12. Also requires questions about tobacco use and vaping be included in the Minnesota student survey

Early Education changes hard fought by DFL

Age verification requirement change:To verify a child’s age for entrance to PreK, kindergarten, or grades 1-12, a parent or guardian may present a passport, a hospital birth record or physician’s​ certificate, a baptismal or religious certificate, an adoption record, health records,​ immunization records, immigration records, previously verified school records, early​ childhood screening records, Minnesota Immunization Information Connection records, or​ an affidavit from a parent.​

Scholarship participation requirement extended 4 years:In order to be eligible to accept an early childhood scholarship, a program must be 3 or 4-star rated by July 1, 2024.

Limitation on Preschool Suspensions:Requires that school districts not dismiss children participating in PreK programs, unless non-exclusionary discipline options have been exhausted and only in circumstances where there is an ongoing serious safety threat to the child or others.

Tribal agencies addition to intervention committees:Adds tribal health and human service agencies to interagency early intervention committees that coordinate work between school districts, special education cooperatives, counties, early childhood care and education programs, and agencies serving families experiencing homelessness to develop programs to identify and provide care for children with disabilities.

Preschool screening exceptions: Allows an early learning scholarship recipient who receives the scholarship before turning three to delay completion of their developmental screening until up to 90 days after the child’s third birthday.

Policy equity provisions not passed:

During the special session, Senate and House DFLers attempted to pass education equity provisions to ensure all students in Minnesota schools are fairly treated. The Senate Republicans, however, refused to even hold hearings to discuss the bill; no action was taken on the provisions at this time. The proposal:

  • Allows tribal nations to access educational data about tribally enrolled or descendant students to support the educational attainment of the student
  • Requires the commissioner to consult with the Tribal Nations Education Committee when revising the academic standards
  • Allows students to wear eagle feathers and other tribal regalia at graduation
  • Allows the Bureau of Indian Education schools (Tribal Contract Schools) to access MSBA trainings on school finance and management
  • Adds tribal health and human service agencies to interagency early intervention committees that coordinate work between school districts, special education cooperatives, counties, early childhood care and education programs, and agencies serving families experiencing homelessness to develop programs to identify and provide care for children with disabilities
  • Makes clarifying changes to the Indian Education Act of 1988
  • Allows students who identify as multiracial or Hispanic to also report American Indian identity. This differs from the federal definition of an American Indian student, which excludes about 1/3 of American Indian students
  • Makes changes to the American Indian parent advisory boards to require that a majority of each committee are parents of American Indian children

Cultural Responsiveness

  • Modifies the World’s Best Workforce and the Achievement and Integration program to encourage the creation of school environments that are culturally responsive, inclusive, and respectful learning and work environments for students, staff, families, and communities
  • Requires teachers and principals to be evaluated on their cultural responsiveness as a part of their evaluations
  • Requires school districts and charters to adopt local policies prohibiting discrimination or discipline against a teacher for incorporating contributions by persons in a federally or state-defined protected class into their curricula. This is intended to address instances where teachers have been disciplined for incorporating information about the Black Power movement, tribal histories and LGBTQ+ history, among other topics
  • Sets a statewide goal for increasing the percentage of teachers of color by 2% each year and requires a joint report from MDE and PELSB every other year on the state’s progress and strategies toward this goal

Limitation on Preschool Suspensions

Nonexclusionary Disciplinary Policies and Practices

  • Requires school districts to consider alternatives to suspension prior to removing a child from class or beginning dismissal proceedings. These alternatives can include social-emotional learning, counseling, social work services, mental health services, special education referrals and evaluation, and evidence-based academic interventions. Readmission plans for students after suspension may also include these supports
  • Requires schools report to the department of education information on pupil withdrawal agreements. Pupil withdrawal agreements are verbal or written agreements between administrators and a pupil’s parent to withdraw the student from a district to avoid expulsion or exclusion proceedings and can be no more than one year in length
  • Requires schools to include documentation on any service a pupil requires to prevent inappropriate behavior from recurring with any educational records transmitted to a student’s new school
  • Requires MDE to notify parents that information about low-cost legal assistance for expulsion and exclusion procedures is available on their website
  • Defines “in-school suspension” to allow MDE to track data on in-school suspensions of students other than those receiving special education services (which it can already track)
  • Requires schools to provide alternative educational services to students suspended for five or more consecutive school days and requires that suspended students be allowed to complete all class assignments and receive full credit for satisfactory completion, while suspended

School Lunch Shaming

  • Requires schools to develop and post on their website a school meals policy that describes what happens when a student does not bring money to pay for their meal. The policy is required to be reasonable and well-defined and must prohibit lunch shaming or other means of ostracizing the student. The policy must make clear whether the district will use a collections agency to collect unpaid school meal debt and must require any communication relating to school meal debt to be delivered only to a student’s parent or guardian, not directly to the student. Any contracts with third-party providers must adhere to the school’s meal policy
  • Prohibits schools from denying a school lunch to all students who qualify for a free or reduced-price meal, whether or not they have an outstanding balance due to a la carte purchases. Also prohibits limiting student participation in any school or extracurricular activities or student access to materials and technology due to unpaid meals debt
  • If the commissioner of education determines that a school has failed to provide meals to students in a respectful manner, they must send a letter of noncompliance to the school, which will have 60 days to respond and remedy the practice

Social-Emotional Learning

  • Clarifies that schools must provide SEL to students (this is already required by statute, but it is not as clear as it could be)
  • Requires MDE to develop and adopt state-level resources and standards for social-emotional learning. Schools are not required to implement these standards and may use their own (SF 25)

Second special session update

Passed:

Resolution to disarm governor’s authority over schools during pandemic

A resolution to urge the governor to not issue further executive orders to regulate public schools during the peacetime emergency was introduced and debated during the second Special Session. The resolution passed in the Senate but did not have a House companion and was not heard in the House.

Legislative resolutions have no force of law and are basically a “wish list” by legislators. Senate Republicans wanted to take another stab at Governor Walz and force another political vote, which they have done in both special sessions.

The resolution:

  • Stressed that local districts should have the power to regulate school hours, closures, and reopening
  • Pointed to the Legislature’s constitutional role in regulating public schools
  • Insisted that the Governor not exercise executive authority to “to alter school schedules, curtail school activities, order schools closed, prevent the reopening of schools for the 2020-2021 school year and the typical presence of students in school buildings”
  • Had no House companion

This short-sighted resolution would have impacted school funding. Schools receive their regular funding based on average daily membership, even during school closures. However, other areas that are reimbursed, such as special education and nutrition, would not be funded as anticipated. This would have been problematic for schools.

If the governor could not exercise the authority under Minnesota Statute 12.21, subd. 3, a school could still choose the model of regular instruction without ADM/APU funding formulas being impacted. There are a few funding formulas that might still be impacted, but it’s too soon to know whether legislative changes are necessary. These formulas include the funding formulas addressed in the regular session E-12 COVID-19 bill, like nutrition, career and tech, or special education. (see: Laws 2020, Ch. 116)

Additionally, under section Minnesota Statute 126C.05, sub. 11, if students are prevented from attending school for more than 15 days due to a pandemic, a school may apply to the commissioner to have its ADM count adjusted to prevent funding loss.

The governor is expected to issue guidance on schools reopening before the end of July, so the debate and vote on the resolution were more political than substantive. (SR 5)

Not passed:

Grant funding for schools choosing to completely reopen in the fall

The Republicans also introduced legislation that would have provided $25 million in grants from the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) to both public and private schools only if they totally reopened in the fall. The bill failed when it did not receive the 45 votes necessary to suspend the rules for a debate and vote on the bill.

It was necessary to suspend the rules of the Senate in order to debate the bill because the bill had not moved through the committee process and had not received the necessary number of readings in order to be brought before the body. Had the Legislature not adjourned in the early hours of July 21, the bill could have had an opportunity to be heard and discussed at length.

The legislation would have provided, at most, $25/student to all districts/schools – both public and private – to pay for pandemic-related expenditures, including cleaning, transportation, and mental health needs. Although the money is needed, school districts have outlined they will need over $1 million to safely re-open schools in the fall, and the Minnesota Department of Education has requested $275 million in CRF.  (SF 3)

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