Senate Republicans laid out their priorities for the 2021 legislative session Thursday. Instead of proposing real solutions to address the safety concerns of Minnesotans or to tackle the challenges that we continue to face due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Republican leadership blamed Minnesota’s teachers and Governor Walz for keeping students out of the classroom, ignoring the unprecedented public health emergency facing Minnesota and the tremendous work that has been done by educators to adapt to this challenge.
The Republicans have had multiple opportunities during the past seven special sessions to introduce legislation or conduct hearings to pass alternative education plans. Republicans have instead used that time to complain about the pandemic and not offer any plan to get students back in the classroom safely. They now chastise the governor’s bold initiative to revitalize and reform Minnesota’s education system and blame teachers for causing the problems the Republicans refuse to address. The thought of decreasing funding towards education when students are already struggling to score political points is inexcusable and negligent.
In this session the Senate DFL has introduced SF 64, to give schools the support they need to get back into the classroom safely and provide much-needed assistance towards schools struggling due to the pandemic. SF 64 also provides resources to students who have fallen behind this year. Senate DFLers have also introduced legislation to ensure all students have access to counseling (SF 332) and provide wraparound support to students through full service community schools (SF 198).
So far, the Republican education-related bill introductions have not addressed the real concerns in supporting Minnesota students and schools as they focus on anti-vaccination policies and additional curriculum mandates that won’t help all Minnesota schools or students recover from the effects of the pandemic.
A good number of the Senate Republican education bills are re-hashed bills from prior sessions including an expensive school transportation-related bill and mandates that will divert teachers and staff from the important business of educating students. While none of these are inherently bad bills, they do nothing to help re-open schools or get students up to speed after almost a year of distance learning.