May 29, 2019

The 2019 Legislative Session and Your Impact

Shannon Mitchell Managing Director of External Affairs of Educators for Excellence-Minnesota

As the deadline of regular session neared the end, party leaders could not agree on budget targets and committee chairs struggled to address policy differences. In the 11th hour, the Governor and House and Senate leaders brokered an education deal. While their compromise included a two percent increase in education spending for the two-year budget cycle, there were few policy changes.

Please click here to thank the legislators who championed these provisions!

With the end of the 2019 legislative session, here is what you need to know about where E4E’s teacher-selected priorities landed.

Discipline Disparities

Although these provisions were ultimately not passed into law, educators like you ensured that key provisions to reduce racial disparities in school discipline became House priorities and a significant part of the final education negotiations.

Specifically, the E4E priorities that advanced to the final House bill included:

  • Requiring the use of non-exclusionary discipline prior to nonviolent dismissals;
  • Banning pre-school suspensions to ensure our youngest learners are not systematically pushed out and denied access to learning environments; and
  • Investing in trauma-informed best practices in our schools, which are proven to reduce dismissal rates and increase overall student engagement.

These teacher-led priorities would not have advanced through all of the committees to become House priorities without teachers taking over 1,500 advocacy actions by meeting with legislators, testifying to elected officials, and contacting legislators during crunch time!

I am inspired by educators who changed the prevailing narrative about discipline by urging legislators to consider the impact of school pushout on our students and the importance of alternatives to exclusionary discipline. Although these provisions did not make it over the finish line, your advocacy brought these issues to the forefront and they are poised to go even farther next year.

Teacher Licensure

The House included provisions that would roll back portions of the new system by limiting a teacher’s ability to move from tiers 1 and 2 — which includes alternative pathways — to a more permanent license based on their performance with students. It would also limit districts’ ability to place students in the classroom of beginning teachers in consecutive years, making it difficult for districts to hire these teachers. Currently, nearly 23% of teachers of color hold tier 1 or 2 licenses, so this bill could have had devastating impacts on the diversity of Minnesota’s teaching workforce.

E4E educators and advocates testified in opposition to these harmful changes and shared how important it was to value multiple pathways into the profession as well as teacher impact on student learning when considering licensure. Again, because of your hard work, the provisions were not included and the new tiered licensure system will remain in place, allowing for multiple pathways into the classroom.

Given the gridlock that has resulted in little policy of any kind being passed into law during the last two legislative sessions, we cannot wait for state leaders to step up. Educators need to advocate at the district and school level for student-centered policies that keep students in the classroom and that ultimately improve outcomes for kids. E4E looks forward to supporting you and your colleagues in your efforts.

While there were ups and downs this year, one thing is clear — decision-makers need to hear from educators. When you speak up and come together, you are a force to be reckoned with.

Start by reaching out to thank the legislators who fought to end discipline disparities.

Shannon Mitchell

Shannon Mitchell is the Managing Director of External Affairs of Educators for Excellence - Minnesota.