Mid-Session Update: Senate and House Education Omnibus Bills

We are more than halfway through the 2019 legislative session and the education omnibus bills (HF2400 and SF7) for both chambers have been published. Throughout the session, Education Evolving has been following several bills that would advance innovation and student-centered learning for all students in Minnesota. Below is a recap of how each chamber approached these issues and EE’s stance.

Competency-Based Education

Throughout 2017 and 2018, Education Evolving spoke with over 100 educators, administrators, students, and organizational leaders around the state about policy barriers they face as they implement student-centered learning in their schools. A common theme we heard from schools that have or have started to implement competency-based education is that it is important for statute to legitimize their work. Specifically, they wanted statute to make it explicit that district and charter schools can certify standards and award credit to students who demonstrate mastery of competencies that are aligned to state standards, regardless of their time in classroom instruction.

This message was reiterated by districts that had been and still are considering moving towards competency-based education, but have been hesitant to do so because statute does not explicitly permit it.

Senate Bill: Legitimizes competency-based education, and makes it explicit that students “can meet academic standards, earn credits and advance to higher levels of learning by demonstrating mastery of required state standards, regardless of time or pace of learning.”

House Bill: Even though a competency-based education bill was introduced, it did not receive a hearing and is not included.

EE’s Stance: Legislators should adopt the Senate’s competency-based education language, which was borne from the voices of Minnesota educators and their students. Including this language would legitimize the work that several districts are doing or want to do in order to advance student-centered learning.

Alternative Teacher Preparation Grant Program

The grant was created during the 2017 legislative session and allocated $750,000 for new alternative teacher preparation programs that intended to do one or more of the following:

  • Fill Minnesota’s teacher shortage in licensure areas that the commissioner has identified.
  • Recruit, select, and train teachers who reflect the racial or ethnic diversity of the students in Minnesota.
  • Establish professional development programs for teachers who have obtained teaching licenses through alternative teacher preparation programs.

In 2018, the Office of Higher Education announced five grant winners—Southwest West Central Service Cooperative (SWWCSC), Learning Disabilities Association of Minnesota, Lakes Country Service Cooperative (LCSC), TNTP, and Teach For America. Since then, LCSC has received unit approval, and SWWCSC and TNTP have received conditional unit approval.

Senate Bill: Allocates $1,000,000 in FY2020 for the grant program.

House Bill: No allocation in bill.

EE’s Stance: Legislators should adopt the Senate’s allocation. According to the 2019 Biennial Minnesota Teacher Supply and Demand Report, Minnesota is experiencing teacher shortages in technical education fields, world languages, special education and STEM. The Report also found that 41.9 percent of districts reported that teacher shortages are “A serious problem” and another 51.8 percent reported it is “A minor problem.” Furthermore, 57.6 percent of districts reported that, as compared to five years ago, there are significantly fewer teacher applicants.

In order to remedy these problems, it is imperative for Minnesota to have multiple, high-quality pathways for individuals to enter the teaching profession and, in particular, for those who are seeking licensure in shortage areas.

Increase Teachers of Color Act of 2019

The Coalition to Increase Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers advocated for a bill that included, among other things:

  • Expanding “Grow Your Own” Pathways and increasing its funding.
  • Increasing funding for Collaborative Urban and Great Minnesota Educators of Color Program Grants.
  • Creating a new Aspiring Minnesota Teachers of Color Scholarship Program.

Senate Bill: Did not include any of the new initiatives and did not increase funding.

House Bill: Adopted many of the provisions laid out in the Increase Teachers of Color Act of 2019, and increased funding for Grow Your Own Pathways, “Intro to Teaching” Concurrent Enrollment Courses, American Indian Teacher Preparation Programs, and the Collaborative Urban and Greater Minnesota Educators of Color Program Grants.

EE’s Stance: EE signed on as a supporter of the bill. According to the 2019 Biennial Minnesota Teacher Supply and Demand Report, the percentage of teachers of color in Minnesota is 4.3 percent, while 65 percent of the state’s public school students identify as students of color.

Research has found that students of color benefit from having teachers who share their racial and ethnic identity. However, it’s not just students of color that benefit from having a teacher of color. Rather, research has found that for all students, positive exposure to individuals from a wide range of races and ethnic groups, particularly in childhood, can “help to reduce stereotypes, attenuate unconscious implicit biases and help promote cross-cultural social bonding.”

P-TECH Schools

Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECH) bring together public schools, a community college, and local industry in order to prepare students for high-skill jobs of the future in identified growth industries. Around the country, there are more than 100 P-TECH schools.

Senate Bill: Includes language to establish P-TECH schools and allocates $1.5 million in both FY2020 and FY2021.

House Bill: There is no language in the bill.

EE’s Stance: Legislators should adopt the Senate’s language because it would create the opportunity for high school students to gain exposure to real world careers through internships, mentoring, worksite visits, and speakers as well as prepare them these for these high-skilled jobs through rigorous coursework at both the secondary and postsecondary level.

Other Issues to Keep an Eye On

Basic Funding Formula: The House’s bill increases the formula by 3 percent for FY2020 and 2 percent for FY2021, which is in alignment with Governor Walz’s proposal. The Senate’s bill increases the formula by 0.5 percent for in both FY2020 and FY2021.

Teacher Licensure: The House’s bill included many changes to the new, four-tiered licensure system, including but not limited to:

  • Amend the number of Tier 1 renewals from three to one.
  • Remove language that a Tier 1 license in career and technical education or a shortage area may be renewed without limitation.
  • Amend the number of Tier 2 renewals from three to two.

The Senate bill does not include any teacher licensure changes.

EE will continue to follow and report legislative updates regarding policies that advance innovation and student-centered learning.

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