A Communication for Education Advocates in SEE Districts - January 8, 2021
What is happening at the Capitol?
Welcome!  As the 2021 Legislative Session began this Tuesday, January 5, I am back to publishing these SEE weekly legislative updates.  The only thing that Governor Tim Walz, the DFL-controlled House, and the Republican-controlled Senate must accomplish is setting a balanced two-year budget. With significant partisan differences, getting it done by the constitution-defined end of session on May 17 is unlikely. Many political pundits expect a special session to extend well into summer, and if it continues past June 30, the Minnesota state government begins to shut down.

Check out this Stay Informed During the Legislative Session document. SEE offers many ways to follow the legislative action, including these updates, Brad's Blog, the 2021 Education Bill Summary, legislative committee schedules, and more, All of which are contained in this one accessible document.

Bill introductions began on Thursday. Symbolically, the first bills introduced define the top priorities for the House and Senate. On the education front, the House has HF1, which provides economic assistance for housing, food, and broadband. Also, HF 4 provides resources to support students and districts through the pandemic. The two bills contain the provisions to expand broadband access across the state and using the higher student enrollment counts from either last
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year or this year when calculating school district revenue, both of which SEE strongly supports. Other provisions include temporary flexibility around the school year and grants for student support services. In the Senate, SF4 would stop the Governor from closing in-person learning and activities.

Today, at a SEE meeting, both Senator Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lake), the Senate Education Finance and Policy Committee's new chair, and Representative Ruth Richardson (DFL-Mendota Heights), the new chair of the House Policy Committee, talked about their legislative priorities. Sen. Chamberlain has been in the Senate leadership for years and previously chaired the powerful Senate Tax Committee. Rep. Richardson is serving her 2nd term and previously co-chaired the House Select Committee on Racial Justice. (See the committee's final recommendations report.) The two legislators found common ground around eliminating the persistent and troubling achievement gap between Minnesota's white students and students of color. Following is a summary of their priorities.  
Representative Ruth Richardson Priorities
  • Eliminate discipline disparities
  • Focus on all students reading by age 8
  • Expand school-based supports for families and students
  • Mental health support
  • Increase teacher diversity
  • Increase driver license attainment by requiring schools to provide driver education
  • Increase alternatives paths to prepare students for careers other than through a 4-year college education
Senator Roger Chamberlain Priorities
  • Return students to in-person school and activities
  • Increase literacy through LTRS professional development
  • Mental health support
  • Expand school choice - Opportunity Scholarships for private and religious schools
  • Focus on accountability through MCA testing
  • Increase equalization for to reduce cost for school levies
Perhaps the most significant area of disconnect is that Rep. Richardson wants to provide expanded school-based supports for families and students that include any issues that limit a student's ability to learn, known as full-service community schools. Sen. Chamberlain believes in expanding school choice and wants to provide targeted opportunity scholarships. The scholarship program establishes a convoluted process to send more public funding to private schools, including religious ones. The Legislature should focus on stabilizing the funding for Minnesota's public schools by eliminating the $800 million cross subsidy (the unfunded cost of providing mandated special education services), before directing more scarce resources to private schools.    
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
612-309-0089