A Communication for Education Advocates in SEE Districts - May 1, 2020
Check out Brad's Blog and Twitter for more details on what is happening at the Capitol!
What is happening at the Capitol?
With just over two weeks before the May 18 end of session, activity is picking up. Next Tuesday, an updated state forecast will be presented, and no one is expecting good news.

Distance learning cast a glaring spotlight on the lack of internet access and devices across the state. Now with distance learning continuing for the rest of the current school year and possibly into the fall, the inequity is alarming and allows many students to fall further behind in their education . Border to border high-quality highspeed broadband has taken on the importance of last century’s electrification of America. Both Governor Tim Walz and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) in different briefings said getting connectivity to all students is a top priority. They suggested using federal coronavirus aid dollars to make it happen. This week the House and Senate top legislative leaders echoed this priority and revealed bills that would spend $20 million to increase conductivity. Two years ago, a broadband taskforce estimated the cost for border to border broadband in Minnesota at $200 million. The state directed $40 million in one-time funding for broadband last session, but there is still a lot of work to do.

Concurrent enrollment, also known as duel-credit, are college courses that students can take in high school. Minnesota pioneered concurrent enrollment courses in 1985, which equitably allow students and families from across the state to reap the benefits of this popular program. In 2015, the Higher Learning Commission said it would enforce the requirement that teachers who teach dual-credit courses must have a master’s degree in the content area of the course by 2022. Although many teachers have a master’s degree, it is usually in the art of teaching and does not meet the requirement.  Read more .  The Minnesota Legislature supports the Lakes Country Service Cooperative(LCSC), which developed the successful 18 Online program that provides statewide access for teachers to earn the statewide access for teachers to earn the necessary master’s degrees. 
With the deadline looming, both the House and the Senate intended to provide about $1 million to 18 Online as its current state funding will run out this year. However, with a dire economic outlook, the chairs of the education committees said they had to be “creative” to find a funding source. Thus, HF3849 (Sanstede-DFL) / SF4257 (Nelson-R), would provide increased funding for LCSC. Both bills were amended, and the funding will come from the current concurrent enrollment aid that school districts receive to pay for the cost of the courses and teacher training in their high schools. The House version takes $635,000, and the Senate takes $1 million. Because concurrent enrollment is such an excellent program and the actual cost for each district is relatively low, as you can see in this spreadsheet from the House , SEE and the other education organizations support the bills. Still, it is a bit frustrating on principle.

The Senate passed the Coronavirus Economic Recovery Act – SF3843 (Chamberlain-R) – a tax package that includes about $15 million in property tax relief for low-property wealth school districts by increasing referendum equalization aid .   Read more / Estimated property tax relief by district

Last Friday, the Senate heard the vaping bill ( SF3184 ) in committee that requires instruction on the dangers of vaping at least once to students during grades 6 through 8. Schools are fully aware of the popularity of vaping in students. I imagine that many of you may have seen this. The Minnesota Department of Health developed this fact sheet with a School E-cigarette Toolkit that has a lot of good information for educators, students, and families. 

Distance learning provides an impetus for supporters who want to move away from a decades-old model of education. Schools need the flexibility to design and implement exciting new ways to deliver instruction that will meet the needs of individual students and boost student success.  HF4098  (Sandell-DFL) and SF4057 (Nelson-R) were heard in committee and would establish twelve innovative zones , six in the metro area and six in greater Minnesota.  Read more.   New provisions include the following.
  • Allow career and technical programs in the summer with an opportunity for students to graduate early.
  • Expand independent study opportunities outside the school building to all students.
  • Allow learning outside of school to count towards earning credits.
  • Provides flexibility in using general education funding, including sharing salary costs between districts.   
If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me.


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