E-12 Student Success (Education)

The Senate DFL majority built off historic investments in education funding last year with an additional $43 million target for schools this session. The majority of this investment went to teacher compensation for completing READ Act training ($31 million) to ensure all Minnesota students are reading at grade level. Two innovative pilot programs were created to tackle the issue of student absenteeism and provide stipends to student teachers. $50 million was invested in voluntary prekindergarten seats due to high demand for this popular program. The Education Policy bill addressed the nationwide issue of book censorship and included a prohibition on book bans at all public and school libraries in Minnesota.

READ Act 2.0

The legislature invested an additional $37.3 million into the Read Act to implement evidence- based literacy instruction and provide teacher training in structured literacy. $31.3 million was appropriated for teacher compensation and stipends for undergoing Read Act training. School districts will be required to enter into MOUs with Education Minnesota to outline how funding may be allocated to teachers.

$4 million in additional professional development funding will provide statewide training through Regional Centers of Excellence at the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and a $1 million contract will help develop culturally responsive curriculum materials through the U of M’s CAREI Institute (Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement).

The Senate listened to school districts who requested READ Act funding no longer be a reimbursable expense and instead be distributed as an aid formula, so that funding will be received much more quickly and allow districts to pay for structured literacy initiatives immediately. Districts will receive a minimum of $2,000 or $39 per pupil to support READ Act eligible activities.

Student Attendance Pilot Program

The Senate DFL supported a new pilot program to provide $4.6 million for a student attendance/chronic absenteeism grant program to promote school district initiatives to build connections with students and encourage regular school attendance. The pilot program names 12 participating districts with Minneapolis serving as the lead district to facilitate collaboration on promising practices to keep students in class. The other school districts are Columbia Heights, Red Lake, Sauk Rapids-Rice, Mankato, Moorhead, Cook County, Windom, Burnsville-Eagan- Savage, Rochester, Northfield, and Chisholm.

Paid Student Teaching Stipend Pilot Program

The legislature committed $6.5 million to higher education institutions across Minnesota to distribute approximately $6800 stipends to student teachers and to help policymakers determine how to reduce the financial burden of completing clinical experiences and strengthen the pipeline of qualified teachers. The 8 higher education teacher preparation programs included are St. Cloud University, Bemidji State University, MN State University Mankato, Winona State University, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, U of M Duluth, U of M Crookston, and Augsburg University.

Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) Expansion

Voluntary prekindergarten (VPK) provides valuable instruction to income-eligible families to prepare children for success before they enter kindergarten. A rapid expansion of funding to school districts and charter schools will allow additional schools to incorporate a VPK/SRP program into their E-12 system, essentially as an additional grade level.

Last session, a one-time $50 million appropriation was made to expand VPK seats by 5,200 in FY25 for a total of 12,360 seats. These programs have been very popular with families, experience extensive waiting lists, and have additional districts requesting to participate; this additional funding will begin to address the surge in demand and ensure our youngest learners are prepared to learn and succeed in school.

Teacher Recruitment and Retention

The Senate DFL understands that teaching is a difficult and sometimes thankless profession, and we are committed to removing barriers that make it unnecessarily difficult to become and remain an educator.

To that end, we approved $6.5 million for a paid student teacher pilot program, which will provide approximately $6800 to student teachers at eight higher education teacher preparation programs. Prospective teachers shouldn’t have to decide between becoming a teacher and feeding their families; we hope these investments show promise and can be expanded in future budgets.

Investments in special education apprenticeship programs at intermediate schools will ensure we don’t lose valuable staff and instead, cultivate valuable support staff into lifelong special education teachers.

PELSB needs the resources to effectively do their job of licensing teachers and the board also understands the importance of making the online application process for teachers as streamlined as possible, which is the intent of the $2.7 million for a new online licensing system.

Aspiring teachers of color grant expansion will add to the teachers of tomorrow and ensure that our diverse student body experiences teachers who look like them and have similar cultural experiences, which will increase their academic engagement and maybe even inspire them to someday become an educator.

A new state school librarian will provide professional development, distribute best practices, and provide additional support to our school librarians and library media specialists, who are at the forefront of the Read Act and ensuring students are reading at grade level.

Paraprofessionals are critical support staff that must be adequately paid, trained, and professionally supported to ensure they remain in their positions and turnover is avoided. We provide flexibility on training to make sure districts have the resources to assist paraprofessionals in becoming highly qualified and pass the necessary assessments to remain in the profession.

Statewide Health Standards

A new requirement for the Minnesota Department of Education to undergo statewide comprehensive health standards development was passed this session with funding to support this work. Statewide health standards are long overdue and will ensure all Minnesota E12 students are receiving age-appropriate health instruction to learn about their own well-being and make informed and healthy decisions.

Statewide health standards will ensure all Minnesota students are learning about critical health- related and age-appropriate subjects, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation education, vaping awareness, cannabis and substance use education, and sexually transmitted infection education.

Prohibition on Book Bans

According to Governor Walz in his 2024 State of the State Address, there were more than 1,400 book challenges last school year alone. A provision included in the Education Policy omnibus bill this session prohibits public libraries from banning books.

The proposal will help school boards and other governing boards avoid long, drawn out debates over specific content in their libraries and shield librarians from undue criticism. The provision will require libraries to have library material policies and procedures to prevent arbitrary censorship.

We should trust our librarians, who are experts in their field and who are qualified to determine age-appropriate content for students and readers, while continuing to allow parents to restrict access to library materials for their students.

School Cell Phone Policies

The Education Policy omnibus bill included a new provision requiring school districts and charter schools to adopt a policy on students’ possession and use of cell phones in school by March 14, 2025. The MN Elementary School Principals Association and Association of Secondary School Principals must collaborate to make best practices available to schools in order to minimize the impact of cell phones on student behavior, mental health, and academic attainment.

Student Resource Officer (SRO) Clarification

The issue of SROs withdrawing from schools came to light in August of 2023 due to a letter from the MN Chiefs of Police Association to Governor Walz addressing recently passed education statutes prohibiting the use of prone restraints on students the association claimed would apply to SROs. Multiple law enforcement groups claimed the inconsistent use-of-force standards for SROs in education and public safety statutes created confusion, which led to numerous law enforcement agencies exiting their SRO contracts with school districts.

In March 2024, SRO legislation was passed and signed into law to clearly define SRO duties and responsibilities, provide clarity around use of force standards in schools, retain the prohibition on chokeholds, create a POST Board model policy, and require SRO training.

The Senate DFL’s utmost priority will always remain ensuring students can learn in a safe and supportive environment. This legislation builds on the important work we did in 2023 to codify the role that school resource officers play in supporting and protecting students.

The proposal establishes minimum training requirements in de-escalation techniques, responding to people experiencing mental health crises, understanding students with disabilities, and understanding the impact of child trauma, among many other critical topics to successfully operate in schools as an SRO. The establishment of a model policy for all school districts that choose to have an SRO will promote a positive school climate while keeping all students and school staff safe.