Bill would mandate state academic health standards

A bill up in both the House and Senate Finance committees this week would require statewide academic health standards. Currently, school boards are responsible for adopting local standards for student learning in health.

SF 3746 and HF 3682 would remove school districts’ local authority and decision-making related to health standards, adding it to the list of academic standards that the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) reviews and revises every 10 years. Locally developed health academic standards would apply until the end of the 2025-26 school year, or until rules implementing statewide health standards are adopted (whichever occurs later).

“…[W]hile statewide health standards may offer consistency and uniformity, they risk overlooking local needs and undermining community engagement that our families and communities want,” wrote the Minnesota School Boards Association, the Minnesota Association of School Administrators, the Minnesota Elementary School Principals, and the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals in opposition to the bill. “Local control provides the flexibility, accountability, and responsiveness necessary to address the diverse health challenges facing K-12 students effectively.”

“Adopting statewide standards could overlook these differences and impose a one-size-fits-all approach, which may not be effective or feasible for every community.”

Current law already requires schools to cover all the listed health subject areas in the proposed bill — from cardiopulmonary resuscitation and automatic external defibrillator instruction to vaping awareness, cannabis use, sexually transmitted infections and diseases, and mental health.

Given that uniform guidance on health education already comes from the state, this bill appears to be an attempt to undermine local control and the flexibility schools currently have to adapt policies and guidelines to meet their local needs.

The proposed legislation would also require the Minnesota Youth Council (MYC) to provide “input” on the students who MDE would have to “consider advice from” when revising all academic standards. MYC was established by legislation in 2013 and describes itself as the “official statewide voice of youth” to the legislature and the governor. Its initiatives include “police free schools,” suspension bans, and the “redistribut[ion] of additional resources” to “combat environmental racism,” to name a few. The Minnesota Youth Council is part of the Minnesota Alliance With Youth, whose organizational focus is on “racial equity and anti-racism” work such as “disrupting systems of oppression.”