Proposed legislation would support students in distance learning

While many Minnesota elementary students have been brought back into their classrooms, many others  — especially middle and high school students — are still limited to a distance learning model. The frustrations with and the limitations of distance learning have been clear, with students themselves voicing concern over brick-and-mortar schools’ online model. Low-income children and those with disabilities have been particularly limited in learning opportunities.

Proposed legislation in the Senate (S.F. 351) authored by Sen. Roger Chamberlain aims to support families who have been impacted the most during distance learning by providing distance learning aid for the remainder of the 2020 school year and the upcoming 2021 school year. The aid will help families who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, as well as those who have participated in a distance learning program either at a public or nonpublic school, access resources such as tutoring services, instructional materials, online instructional content, software or other educational technology, internet access and connectivity, classroom supplies, and pupil support services. Eligible families can apply for up to $450 per student per school year and must submit receipts for the expenses. The range of resources families can use the aid on offers the flexibility parents need, as parents can then choose how to best support their children’s education and mitigate learning loss.

If schools are struggling to reopen, or teachers’ unions continue pressuring schools to not reopen, and if there continues to be no plan by state leaders to get older students back into the classroom, then it only makes sense to provide funds to underserved families who are paying for closed schools and not getting the learning opportunities they need.

The Committee on Education Finance and Policy will meet about S.F. 351 today at 3 p.m. The hearing will be conducted remotely and can be viewed here.