The Ins and Outs of Minnesota’s Education Omnibus Bill

An increase in Minnesota’s per-student funding formula and additional dollars in safe schools revenue were key components of this legislative session’s E-12 education omnibus bill. Below is a (quick) summary highlighting the main points.

The $20.1 billion two-year education finance bill was approved Saturday morning and appropriates $543 million in new spending for the upcoming biennium. Most of the new spending ($388.8 million) will go toward a 2 percent increase in the per-pupil formula, with $90 million going toward rising special education costs. The $30 million in safe schools revenue builds on the $25 million for school safety that was appropriated in 2018 and can be used for various school safety programs including hiring school counselors. Provisions in the bill will encourage school districts and charter schools to provide and integrate mental health instruction into existing programs or curriculum for students in grades 4 through 12. Temporary funding for 4,000 spots in the state’s voluntary pre-K program was also included along with funds appropriated for early learning scholarships.

What’s not included (bad news)

Tax-credit scholarships

Minnesota had the opportunity to help more students access quality school options through a tax credit scholarship program, but the Legislature failed to approve the Equity and Opportunity Scholarship Act.

This is a shame, as the scholarships would have provided low-income students access to a learning environment that best serves their needs, including religious and private school options. The tax-credit scholarships would have been funded through private contributions made to non-profit scholarship granting organizations with 501(c)(3) status that have been approved by the Minnesota Department of Revenue. Tax credits are merely a reduction of tax liability and allow taxpayers to keep more of their own money. Because the money is a donation, the state does not own or even ever physically possess it.

It’s unfortunate Minnesota continues to lag behind numerous states in its expansion of school choice through tax credits (nearly 20 states have tax-credit scholarship programs already in effect). The Center will keep pushing for the adoption of new education strategies to help tackle the state’s education shortcomings and better serve our students most in need of new opportunities.

What’s not included (good news)

Changes to the teacher licensure system

The House’s proposals to change the teacher licensure system would have rolled back bipartisan teacher licensure reforms without giving the newly adopted system an opportunity to work. The changes would have cut off a pathway for teachers of color to enter the workforce and would have rebuilt barriers that were previously removed because they prevented qualified professionals who want to teach from entering the classroom. Minnesota is facing a very real and complicated teacher shortage, and the new system is helping us address this problem by attracting and retaining effective educators.

Mandatory comprehensive sexual health education model

The comprehensive sex education (CSE) model proposed by the House was extremely controversial. The language in the House bill wanted CSE taught in Minnesota public and charter schools beginning as young as kindergarten. The proposed CSE curriculum was connected to and promoted by Planned Parenthood.

Required non-exclusionary disciplinary policies and practices

There is exclusionary discipline, which is disciplinary action that removes a student from his or her educational setting and is most commonly suspension or expulsion, and non-exclusionary discipline, which tries to avoid suspending or expelling a student through practices like restorative justice. But classroom management is tricky. Teachers often find themselves in the middle of how to best handle a disruptive student without affecting the learning of other students. In the interest of all learners, and teachers, teachers should decide how to best manage their classrooms so students are put first and kept safe. Too often classrooms have become chaotic because school administrators are afraid to hold student behavior accountable through suspensions.