The Senate this week debated for six hours on an E-12 education bill that will stall students’ academic progress, siphon $250 million from public education, and cause massive budget cuts in schools.
The bill provided no increase in the basic funding formula for the first time in decades. The basic formula is the funding driver that provides general education budget dollars to schools. The bill also contained a shaky voucher scheme that by 2025 would pull $250 million away from public education in Minnesota.
Senate DFLers attempted to make changes to the bill including deletion of the voucher program, providing additional funding to community preschool and removing discriminatory language, but the amendments were voted down by the Republican majority.
While refusing to fully fund our public schools, Senate Republicans instead focused on ramming through discriminatory policy towards Minnesota’s transgender youth. Seeking to ban transgender girls from participating in youth sports, every Senate Republican and the members of the Independent Caucus voted to keep them from participating in sports. Transgender kids want the opportunity to play sports for the same reason other kids do: to be a part of a team where they feel like they belong. A similar bill was recently vetoed by Republican North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum and is widely seen by legal advocates as unconstitutional.
Changes to the teacher licensure system provided in the bill will mean that under-prepared people will be allowed to teach our children at a time when they need the most help getting caught up. The bill ignores Minnesota’s quickly changing society and includes discriminatory requirements for schools and excludes ethnic studies provisions. Increasing special education and English Language Learner funding gaps are completely dismissed in the bill and 4,000 preschool kids will lose their opportunities for early education because of the lack of funding.
The bill also provides no additional funding for the urgent need to attract and retain support staff to deal with the growing mental health crisis in schools.
The passed on a vote of 37-29 and now heads to Conference Committee with the House. (SF 960)