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MDE Guidance on Student Transportation is ‘Confusing’ and Leading to Services Being Denied

Under Minnesota law, public school districts are required to provide transportation within the district for students attending nonpublic schools. Known as the “Equal Treatment Laws” or the “Fair Busing Bill,” the basic premise of the law is that it is in the public interest to provide equality of treatment and the same level of service in transporting public school and nonpublic school children. The Minnesota Legislature appropriates funding to school districts to cover these transportation services.

But recent guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education on a district’s responsibility to provide equal transportation services for nonpublic school students is confusing and has resulted in school districts denying this service to nonpublic students, according to Opportunity for All Kids in its letter to Gov. Walz, legislators, and Minnesota’s Education Commissioner.

While MDE’s guidance has led to much confusion, it also says that non-public schools and local school districts can work together to allow non-public schools to hire a bus company for service and the school district will be reimbursed by the state. However, many school districts are ignoring this information and MDE’s new guidance has caused confusion on this issue. We believe that guidance should be rescinded.

Transportation should not be a barrier to learning for any student in Minnesota. Please drop this confusing and unnecessary guidance and follow state law to provide all students, including non-public students, with access to transportation to schools during the 2020-21 school year.

Because Minnesota’s nonpublic schools “educate a diverse population of students—from low- and middle-income families, communities of color, and in neighborhoods across our state,” OAK continues, our state leaders should ensure all students can get to school safely this fall.

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