The E-12 education omnibus budget bill provides an additional $543 million in new funding for Minnesota school districts over the next two years. It provides a 2% increase each year in the basic funding formula, restores $49 million in PreK investments, funds 4,000 young learners across the state, caps the special education cross subsidy to help school budgets, and makes permanent funding increases for Minnesota’s Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools. (HF 1)
Basic funding formula increases
The bill appropriates $388.8 million for the biennium, or a 2% each year increase on the basic funding formula, providing $126 (FY20) and $255 (FY21) per student in new money each year. Despite the funding increase, school districts will still struggle to cover costs as the bill does not provide adequate funding to keep up with inflation or to make up for under-funded budgets the past 15 years.
Voluntary PreK and early education programs
The bill provides $46.7 million (FY20-21) to continue School Readiness Plus, which was implemented in the 2017 session. The continued investment will ensure that 4,000 PreK seats will be available to young learners past July 1.
Special education cross subsidy
The agreement includes $90 million to hold the special education cross subsidy flat and reduce the per pupil cross subsidy amount to $820. The state’s burgeoning cross subsidy ($735 million in FY19), is straining school district budgets and affecting education program quality for all students. Tuition reimbursement payments for open enrolled students will be reduced to 85% in FY2021, 80% in FY2022, and 75% for FY2023 and beyond. The FY20 rate is set at 90%; also, 100% of the district costs for transportation services will be reimbursed.
No early learning scholarship increases
No funding increase for the early childhood scholarship program was included in the final agreement.
Tribal contract schools
Minnesota’s Tribal Contract Schools (BIE) received a permanent funding increase tied to increases of the basic funding formula. The original funding passed in 2015 and continued in 2017 but only for the FY18-19 biennium. Total funding is $3.4 million in FY20-21 and $4.6 million in FY22-23.
Safe Schools aid
The conference report contains $30 million in one-time funds for school safety aid, contingent on the closing balance at the end of FY19 (June 30) exceeding the February forecast closing balance by $30 million and after $33 million in other contingent appropriations and transfers are made—roughly $33 per student. In short, there must be $63 million above the February forecast for the Safety aid to be available for the $33 million to go out to schools.
Mental health education instruction and resource requirements change
Schools are now encouraged to provide mental health instruction for students in grades 4 (changed from grade 6) through 12 that align with local health standards. The MDE commissioner, in consultation with the commissioner of health and mental health organizations must provide school districts with mental health resources, including resources on suicide and self-harm prevention.
Special education paperwork reduction
Two special education paperwork reduction provisions were included in the special session bill; one adds a provision to prior written notice so parents may identify the specific part of the proposal they object to and request meeting of the IEP team. The second allows parents to request a conciliation conference with the IEP team, requiring a district to hold a conference within ten days of receiving the parental request.
Civics education “encouraged” for students
School districts are encouraged to offer a for-credit course in government or citizenship for 11th and 12th grade students that satisfies current law (three and a half credits of social studies). This is in place of a mandated requirement that had been discussed earlier in session.
Dyslexia reading strategies and screening to help students
The bill requires the Professional Educator Licensing Standards Board (PELSB) to adopt rules on reading preparation to enable educators to define and understand dyslexia, implement instructional strategies, and access MDE dyslexia resources. School districts are also required to screen for students who are not reading at grade level in grades K, 1, and 2 and to screen students in grade 3 or higher who demonstrate reading difficulty unless a different reason has been identified.
Sunscreen allowed in school
Students will be allowed to possess and apply sunscreen in schools.School personnel are not required toprovide or apply the sunscreen.
Schools must eliminate high lead levels in water
A school district or charter school that finds lead in its drinking water must formulate an action plan and notify the public of the action plan. The action plan must minimize student exposure to lead, including immediately shutting off the water supply source.
B3 bench marking program to gather energy data
School districts will be required to maintain energy consumption data and provide it to the B3 benchmarking program, but they will not be penalized for not meeting this requirement.
Fire drills and school safety drills
Schools may hold one fire drill per year that does not require students to leave the school building. This is a lockdown school provision.
Volunteers’ pay not penalized
Public employees cannot be docked pay for taking time off to be a member of the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) when doing PELSB business.
Snow days bill signed into law
Minnesota school districts were handed an excused absence slip in April when Governor Walz signed the snow days compromise bill that will remove penalties for school days lost to Minnesota’s cold, snowy winter. As the snow days mounted, many districts realized they were at risk of falling short of the required 165 education days prescribed by state law; districts risked penalties for non-compliance with the required number of school days and hours.
The bill allows school boards to determine how many days they will declare as instructional days to meet the state minimum. Pay provisions for hourly and contract employees and provisions for probationary teachers were included in the bill. School districts must also report to the commissioner on the number of days that the board approves to count as instructional days under the bill. The provisions are in effect for the 2018-19 school year only. (SF 1743)
PROVISIONS THAT DID NOT PASS
A provision to provide over $30 million in voucher-like tax credits for private and public schools was included in the Senate’s Tax bill but did not become law (See Taxes for more information).
Comprehensive sexual health education
The House E-12 Education bill included provisions requiring MDE to identify model sexual health education programs and require school districts to implement sexual health education programs in elementary and secondary schools covering the same topics as those identified by MDE. Districts were also required to provide parental review of curriculum instruction and to allow a student to opt-out of instruction. There was strong opposition from some parents and other groups, despite surveys indicating that large percentages of people from across the state supported a comprehensive approach. (House provision)