Education Omnibus Budget Bill

During the past 18 months, the COVID-19 pandemic brought into stark contrast the varying inequities in Minnesota’s public-school system. As distance learning became the norm, schools had to deal with students who lacked the hardware to participate in virtual classroom learning as well as the inability for some students to access the internet due to spotty broadband/WIFI services.

School staff, parents, and teachers also felt the weight of this “new normal” as they had to navigate a different landscape for students. And, because many families rely on school nutrition services to feed their families the change in academic schedules proved a hardship for many. School budgets were also hit as fees for community education and childcare dropped off and many parents either chose to homeschool their children or hold back kindergarten students until next year.

Despite seven special sessions, the Senate Republican majority held no hearings to discuss the serious issues facing schools and refused to pass bills to help school districts, especially with technology/broad band, declining enrollment and learning loss. Instead, they blamed the governor for closing schools during the worst pandemic in 100 years.

The Senate Republican budget response this session targets underfunded E-12 education by roughly $350 million the amount needed for schools to avoid budget cuts for the coming two years. The Senate republicans proposed a $152 million E-12 education budget increase, which would have funded only the bare minimum formula increase for school following a historic year of tremendous challenges and needs.

Fortunately, the Senate and House DFL, Governor Walz, and education advocates prevailed and negotiated a better education funding bill that provides $554 million (FY 22-23) and $668 million (FY 24-25). (SF 23)

Notable items in SF 23:

Basic formula increases to bolster classroom programs

Despite the Senate Republican’s lack of investment in the formula, the special session agreement will provide more funding for schools. The formula will increase by 2.45% (FY 22) roughly $161/student; a 2% in (FY 23)-$135/student for a total biennial increase of $462.947 million. The new basic per pupil amount for FY 22 is $6,728 and for FY 23, $6,863.

Voluntary PreK funding extended for FY 22-23

Again, the Senate Republican attempted to cut 4,000 PreK slots for children across the state. Fortunately, they did not prevail, and the funding will continue but only for the next two years, despite DFL attempts to get the funding into the base budget. Total funding:$46.559 million (FY 22-23)

Special education cross subsidy reduction funded

School districts struggle to cover increasing costs of mandated special education services. Although the House and Governor Walz had wanted a larger cross subsidy reduction, this amount was accepted to help fund other important programs. Total cross subsidy funding increase: $10.45 million (FY 22-23; one-time)

English language learner cross subsidy aid increased

With an increasingly diverse student population, schools are facing rising English language learner costs. The agreement provides $8 million in additional funding for the next four years only.

Teachers of Color Act funded at record levels

The Coalition to Increase Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers (TOCAIT) has been working on legislative proposals for the past five years and $16 million additional funding was provided in the special session agreement. Funding increases include:

  • American Indian Teacher Prep Grants: $280,000 (FY22-23, ongoing)
  • Black Men Teach: $750,000 (FY22-23; one-time)
  • Come Teach in MN hiring bonuses: $400,000 (FY 22-23; on-going)
  • Expanded concurrent enrollment (Intro to Teaching): $250,000 (FY 22-23; on-going)
  • Grow Your Own: $10 million (FY22-23; on-going)
  • Teachers of Color Mentoring & Retention Incentive Grants: $ 4.508 million (FY 22-23; on-going);
  • Teacher Recruitment marketing campaign: $500,000 (FY 22-23; on-going)

Educational Excellence Grants (one-time funding is noted)

  • Children’s museums: $300,000 (FY22-23; one-time) Mankato, Bloomington and Grand Rapids; $50,000 each museum.
  • Digital Well-Being Grant: $1 million (FY22-23; one-time); funding for the LiveMore Screen Less organization to create a resource hub on to promote digital well-being, coordinate with other organizations and create train-the trainer and peer- to peer training programs; Chamberlain priority
  • Girls in Action:  $1.5 million (FY 22-23; one-time);
  • Math Corps: $1 million (FY 22-23; one-time)
  • MN Civics Education Coalition: 150,000 (FY 22-23; one-time)
  • MN Youth Council: $375,000 (FY 22-23; one-time)
  • Sanneh Foundation: $3 million (FY 22-23; one-time)
  • Right Size College entrance exam reimbursement: $1 million (FY 22-23; ongoing
  • Statewide testing reduction $2.4 million (FY 22-23; one-time)
  • Suicide Prevention Teacher Training Grants: $265,000 (FY 22-23; one-time)
  • LETRS Grants: $3 million (FY 22-23); provides grant funding to school districts to implement the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling Programs
  • Non-exclusionary discipline training: $1.750 million (FY 22-23; one-time)

School policies on religious observances

School boards are required to notify parents about school religious observance absence policies and to consider a community’s religious observances when creating the school calendar. The bill is effective for the 2021-2022 school year and later.

Environmental hazards

Schools must notify school staff, students and parents if there is a threat of an environmental hazard. The notice must also include information about what to do to reduce harm.

Anti-lunch shaming

  • Districts must adopt and post a school meals policy
  • Policy must address if the school uses a collection agency for lunch debt
  • Students cannot be denied a meal despite debt
  • Meals must be provided in a respectful manner

COVID-19 recovery

  • Special education COVID-19 recovery learning services and supports must be implemented to help parents and students impacted by COVID-19.
  • Behavioral Health Supports Report: Requires MDE and DHS to work to find strategies to streamline access and reimbursement for behavioral health service for children with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or an individualized family service plan who are enrolled in Medical Assistance.
  • Screen time limits:Limits public Pre-school students from using individual screen time without engagement from a teacher or other students
  • Standards suspension:Academic standards implementation is suspended until June of 2023 not already implemented prior to January 2021. Social studies work will continue.
  • Evidence-based education:Requires all preK-12 education grants awarded after July 1, 2022, to be awarded through a framework to be aligned with Minnesota’s World’s Best Workforce and the federal government’s student accountability systems.
  • Charter Schools corporal punishment: Requires charter schools to comply with current statute that does not allow districts to inflict corporal punishment on students.

Mental health education

Requires a district or charter school providing instruction on preventing suicide or self-harm to use the resources provided by the commissioner or other evidence-based instruction.

Seizure training and action plan

Requires a school district or charter school where a student with a seizure disorder and prescribed seizure medication is enrolled to have a seizure action plan. Training requirements. Requires a school district or charter school to provide all licensed school nurses or other designated individuals, and other staff with self-study materials on seizure disorders.

School Nutrition formula adjustments

The bill adjusts and reallocates school meal funding so that the USDA requirement is met in Minnesota. It ensures that school districts receive their maximum matching funds for nutrition programs.

Notable items in SF 23 that weren’t included:

Senate Republican voucher scheme rejected

The Senate Republican Educational Savings Account (ESA) proposal that is a thinly veiled voucher scheme to would provide state dollars to parents to pay for private E-12 school and post-secondary school services for students to entice parents away from public schools and reward them for doing so, was rejected by the House DFL and the governor in negotiations.

Youngest learners not allowed to be dismissed from school

A Senate Republican bill to disallow school administrators to dismiss kindergarten to grade 3 students unless non-exclusionary discipline measures have been exhausted and there is an ongoing serious safety threat to the child or others will not become law this session.

Civics education requirement left out

Legislation that would require 11th or 12th grade high school students to take a for-credit course in citizenship and government before graduation did not make it into the final agreement.

Substitute teacher pilot deleted

A provision passed by the Senate to allow districts to hire short-call substitute teachers who do not have a teaching license as issued by Professional Educator Licensing Standards Board (PELSB) and do not have a BA was not included in the agreement.

Perpich closure/establish education specialist at MDE did not pass

A provision from the Senate E-12 bill to close the Perpich Center for the Arts and establish an Arts Education specialist at MDE will not become law.

Patriotic societies school program excluded

A provision by the Senate Republicans to allow a group or organization identified as a patriotic society in the US Code 36 to be included in school programs conducted on certain holidays or have the opportunity to speak to students for a reasonable amount of time during the school day is not part of the E-12 agreement.

Private nurse modifications won’t move forward

A provision allowing a private nurse (not a school nurse) to accompany a student in a school classroom who is deemed “medically fragile” will not become law this session. The bill would also have required that if a child needs clinical nursing services at home or during transportation to or from school, the parent or guardian must meet with school officials to discuss options.

Transgender language participation language rejected

Provisions that discriminate against transgender students by requiring they participate in the sports team based on birth gender was rejected by the governor and DFLers and will not become law.

No LIFO changes

Language that would have changed heard-fought compromises to MN tiered licensure statutes by removing the provision that districts can hire a Tier 1 teacher if they can’t find a Tier 2,3 or 4 teacher to fill the position; ended seniority-based lay off decisions (LIFO) and changes the PELSB competitive Teacher of Color grant program to include alternative teacher prep programs will not become law.