A Communication for Education Advocates in SEE Districts - June 26, 2020
What is happening at the Capitol?
The special session ended early on Saturday, June 20 morning, without reaching agreement on the significant issues of police reform, the bonding bill seen as an economic stimulus bill, and providing aid to state and local governments for coronavirus expenses through the federal CARES revenue.  Read more . A second special session in early July is expected to deal with the unfinished work.  

The Legislature passed an education policy bill in the special session. As background, during the regular session, the House passed an education policy omnibus bill (HF163), which the Senate did not take up. During the special session, the House separated HF163 into two smaller bills. One is HF33, which is a very pared-down education policy bill with only the provisions where the House and Senate found agreement. The bill passed in the House by a 117-9 vote and unanimously in the Senate. 

Some of the provisions in the bill include:
  • Requires vaping prevention instruction at least once for students in grades 6 to 8. 
  • Requires Tier 1 and 2 teachers to be trained in student mental illness the same as currently required of Tier 3 and 4 teachers when renewing their license.
  • Prohibits suspending or dismissing a 3 or 4-year-old child enrolled in a district's preschool program. For other grades, suspension and expulsion can only be used after exhausting specified nonexclusionary discipline and only in cases where there is an ongoing safety threat. 
  • Allows school districts to conduct a stand-alone special education functional behavior assessment (FBA) without performing a comprehensive evaluation.
  • Allows special education students to participate in ADSIS academic support for general education students.
  • Requires school districts to adopt a procedure to collect and transport unclaimed or abandoned drugs or medications in nurses' offices.
  • Requires more detailed information regarding students displaying dyslexia characteristics
  • in the data reported to MDE when schools screen children in Kindergarten through 2nd grade who are not reading at grade level.
  • More Information – SEE Side-by-Side Comparison / House Research Bill Summary / Bill Language / Bill Status Page

The House moved most of the other provisions from HF163 and a few new ones into another new bill, HF36, which included reforms to close the achievement gap and reduce the systemic racism that has crept into schools just like other institutions across the nation. The House passed the bill in the policy committee last week, but it stalled after that. The SEE side-by-side compares all three policy bills. (HF36 -  Research Bill summary, Bill Language and Bill Status Page .)

The People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus is a growing group of nineteen Minnesota Senators and Representatives that are working together to represent their communities. They are unapologetic in their efforts to force legislators and all Minnesotans to hear and see what people of color and indigenous citizens experience, which systematically prevents them from enjoying the prosperity in Minnesota at the same rate that white people do. Many of the reforms in HF36 intended to boost educational outcomes for marginalized students came from the POCI caucus. In the wake of George Floyd's killing, it seems more people are willing to listen but are they ready to demand meaningful reforms?  Read more on reforms and the politics surrounding them. 

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) directed school districts to prepare three models for delivering instruction and support to students in the upcoming school year. 
  • All in-school learning
  • Full distance learning
  • A hybrid of both

MDE plans to notify districts on July 27, which model all school districts across the state will use when school begins in September. All districts or individual districts may have to change models at any time, depending on how the coronavirus plays out in Minnesota throughout the year. With so little time until September, this is a monumental effort for school leaders and staff.   Read more .

The House Education Finance Committee and the House Education Policy Committee held a series of three joint meetings to hear how distance learning worked for last school year and seek feedback on the challenges and suggestions for improvement going forward. We know distance learning is not working for many marginalized low-income, children of color, and special education students. At the first meeting on Wednesday, the committees heard from the parents and students in the marginalized groups on their experiences with distance learning. ( Read more .) On Thursday, several teachers from early learning through high school shared their insights. Also, support staff groups, such as counselors, social workers, nurses, bus drivers, and custodians, provided insightful feedback. ( Read more .) On Tuesday, June 30, school leaders will address the committees. The testifiers were passionate and inspiring. You can find a link to listen to the meetings and see written testimonies with additional information given by stakeholders to the committee members here .

I'll be back to cover the second special session if it occurs. As always, see Brad's Blog for more detailed information on what is happening at the Capitol.
If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Deb

Deb Griffiths
Schools for Equity in Education (SEE)
Director of Communications and Community Outreach
612-309-0089