May 2, 2019

Top 5 education issues to watch at the legislature this week

The House and Senate will soon come together to iron out the differences in their education bills before sending a compromise bill to the Governor. The funding and policies provisions that emerge will impact your profession, classroom, and ultimately your students.

Below is what you need to know about a few of the key issues and an opportunity to take action to tell lawmakers what you think.

1. Addressing racial disparities in discipline

E4E members, along with other organizations, parents and community members have advocated for policy solutions that seek to end racial disparities in discipline and promote alternatives to punitive discipline that pushes students out of school.

The House proposal includes provisions that would:

  • Ensure our youngest learners are not systematically pushed out and denied access to learning environments by banning the use of expulsion and suspension in pre-kindergarten;

  • Invest in trauma-informed practices in our schools;

  • Require the use of non-exclusionary discipline prior to nonviolent dismissals;

  • Promote learning when suspensions occur by requiring districts to provide alternative learning services after five or more days of suspensions; and

  • Improve reporting on pupil withdrawal agreements at the state level;

The Senate proposal does not include any changes to discipline policy or invest in trauma-informed practices.

Our members have advocated for these changes for years - join these teacher advocates and take action to tell legislators keep students in school learning!

2. Tiered Licensure

Over the past five years, Minnesota’s licensure system, after being declared “broken” by the Office of the Legislative Auditor, was overhauled to create a more clear and transparent system that provides pathways to licensure for alternatively prepared educators and teachers licensed or trained out-of-state.

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 permanent licensure based on their performance. 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 devastating impacts on the diversity of Minnesota’s teaching workforce.

The Senate did not include changes to the licensure system.

3. Increasing the number of teachers of color

The House bill dedicates $37 million over the next two years to new and existing programs for a number of initiatives, including training teachers of color, stipends for student teaching, and scholarships and loan forgiveness for teachers of color. Gov. Walz included $16 million in his budget for 2020-21.

The Senate included no additional funding but continues funding for several programs aimed at increasing the number of teachers of color.

4. Increasing education funding

Education advocates across the board have called for an increase in education spending. The Governor ran on a platform to invest in education, and has proposed, along with the House, $521 million in additional general education spending, three percent the first year, and two percent the second year of the biennial budget.

The Senate has proposed a half percent increase, or $95 million, in additional spending each year.

5. Increasing special education funding

The Governor proposes spending $91 million to freeze the special education cross subsidy for two years. The cross subsidy refers to the budget shift necessary because of the shortfall between the actual cost of mandated special education services and funding districts receive from state and federal aid to cover it. Districts cover the shortfall in special education funding with general education dollars received from the state.The House would allocate about $118 million to reduce the shortfall. Both plans would include changes to how much of their unfunded special education costs charter schools can bill back to students’ home districts.

The Senate did not include any new funding for the special education cross subsidy.

As lawmakers make big education priority decisions this week, they need to hear from you! Now is the time to advocate for your students - sign our petition demanding legislators advance discipline priorities.