The Minnesota House of Representatives passed the House Omnibus K-12 and Higher Education Bill (HF 2749) Monday night on an 84-46 vote.
The House Floor session began at 4 p.m. Monday, and as many of you know, there is virtually no public access to the floor. Rep. Jim Knoblach sponsored the bill, but he passed it off to Rep. Jenifer Loon, stating her role in this bill was significant.
Stating right off the bat that she was given a zero target, Rep. Loon was pleased to report that — through some resourcefulness in offering some school districts the ability to repay or refinance a “maximum effort” loan and cutting some existing programs (the Regional Centers of Excellence and some online IEP systems) — she was able to secure $56 million in additional funding for E-12 education, but no additional funding for higher education.
Rep. Sondra Erickson weighed in on the unique empowerment schools and parents have. She firmly believes the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) exam is one of the most respected tests in the nation. One of her priorities this session is to ensure the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system looks at the MCA scores for entrance and uses them to cut down on remediation.
It did not take long for the minority party to respond to the spending target. House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, described the atmosphere on the House Floor: “Zero energy comes with zero target. No energy due to zero dollars in new ongoing revenue with a $900 million surplus.”
The discussion lasted more than four hours and had more than 20 amendments. There were a few amendments to the amendment, a number of roll call votes and several points of order raised during the session. Keep in mind when legislators leave the Capitol this session, many will be heading out on the campaign trail and so some of the formalities were brought forth with that in mind.
Amendments that were adopted include:
- Increase the amount for teacher loan forgiveness from $1.2 to $2.2 million.
- Requirement of public input and a written plan for local option revenue.
- Additional language for teachers holding a one-year license to work toward or pass pedagogy skills exam requirements.
- Physical education standards adopted in 2020-2021.
- Adds consistency language allowing MnSCU to help MDE set benchmarks for remediation.
- Adds clarification for extracurricular activities for full-time, online students.
- Clarification with MCA exams — publishing calendar at beginning of the school year and providing opt-out information. Also included language for consequences if disruptions or interruptions occurred with state testing.
- Provision for teachers renewing licensing to take one-hour of suicide prevention.
- Adopts stronger policies to increase teachers of color.
- Establishes a student support services grant program to address shortages of support personnel in Minnesota schools and support academic success.
Amendments that were not adopted include:
- Removal of the education commissioner from any role with the administration of the statewide student survey.
- Inclusion of the language “immediate physical threat” to the provision allowing a teacher to remove a student from the classroom.
Some key provisions in the bill include:
- $16 million to help with teacher shortage, specifically recruitment and retention.
- $6 million in training for intermediate school districts.
- $400,000 in Adult Basic Education.
- Districts may administer a civics test and if so, students must answer 30 of 50 questions correctly.
- School boards must hold public meetings before raising or extending funds received from property taxes.
- Positive Behavioral Intervention Supports (PBIS)