A Communication for Education Advocates in SEE Districts - May 15, 2020
What is happening at the Capitol?
The Senate Finance Committee heard bill SF485, which contains the coronavirus aid language that the Senate Education Finance and Policy previously discussed and a few other provisions. The SEE side by side compares this to the House finance and policy provisions.
Yesterday, Governor Tim Walz announced he intends to use $91 million in federal funds for education and childcare. His education priorities are to increase student access to technology and summer school programs.  Read more . The governor also released Executive Order 20-57 , which allows for a safe and effective summer learning environment for Minnesota's students. School districts have always used summers to work with students that have fallen behind academically. Distance learning is difficult for many students, which has only exacerbated learning loss and the need for quality summer programs to help students catch up. Districts will be able to open their schools for summer programming. The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) provided two documents as additional guidance (scroll down to the guidance section),

The legislature is also addressing the problem of inequitable student
access to technology. Today the House Ways and Means Committee heard SF4494 and sent it to the floor. The bill passed in the Senate on a 66-0 vote last week. The bill does the following.|

  • Establishes a $15 million distance learning broadband access grant program. This emergency funding must be awarded by September 30, 2020. 
  • Establishes a $2 million telemedicine equipment reimbursement grant program
  • Adds $10 million to the border-to-boarder broadband fund.
  • Bill Text / A1 amendment - adopted

It looks like the legislature wants to get funding out now to support students and Minnesotans across the state but hopes the federal CARES coronavirus aid will cover it. In that case, the money can return to the state's general fund. 
Last Friday, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) prohibited school districts from holding large in-person graduation ceremonies either indoors or outside. This sparked frustration across the state as school districts have work to find creative and safe ways to recognize their graduates.  Read more . Rep. Ron Kresha (R-Little Falls), who, along with many of his colleagues, sent a letter asking MDE to rescind the new graduation policy. In a news release yesterday, Rep. Kresha stated. "The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) has confirmed that they have not and will not create a policy to levy a financial penalty against schools holding graduation ceremonies in person." This doesn't rescind the official graduation guidelines but does seem to give school districts some wiggle room. 
It's the final weekend before the end of the session, and most of the work is going on behind closed doors.  The legislative process gets even less transparent when working through a pandemic. However, it all must be wrapped up by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, and I will be back next week to provide a session wrap-up.
I f 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