The Minnesota Education Omnibus Bill is Done. What’s In It?

On Monday, as the 2019 Minnesota legislative session was about to end, Governor Walz, Speaker Hortman, and Majority Leader Gazelka finalized the budget for the education omnibus bill. In total, the E-12 budget included an increase of $543 million in new money for the biennium. The items that comprise the vast majority of the budget increase include:

  • General education formula increases by 2 percent for FY2020 and 2 percent for FY2021.
  • Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) funding to maintain the 4,000 seats that were set to expire. Importantly, this is a two-year extension of the program and does not make VPK permanent.
  • Funding to freeze the special education cross subsidy, which is the gap between the cost of special education services and what state and federal funding actually covers.
  • One time funding of $30 million for safe schools grants, with the appropriation contingent upon closing the FY19 balance.

While the main focus of this legislative session was to decide on the budget for the next biennium, some policy provisions were adopted. However, part of leadership’s agreement was that only policy provisions that had already been adopted in conference committee would be part of the overall education omnibus bill.

Below is an overview of some of the policy provisions that did and didn’t make the cut. The list of policies that were not adopted is long and several of them are likely to come up again in the 2020 legislative session.

Overview: Adopted Policy Provisions

Many of the policy provisions that adopted in conference committee were in both chambers’ education omnibus bills prior to the start of the conference committee. Overall, many of the adopted policy provisions were technical changes and/or amended existing statute.

P-TECH Schools: Establishes P-TECH schools, which are public-private partnerships that are meant to prepare students for high-skill jobs in growth industries. Education Evolving supported this bill because it aligns with three of our principles of student-centered learning—real-world relevant, anytime/anywhere learning, and student ownership and agency.

Graduation Requirements: Encourages school districts to offer a civics course for 11th and 12th grade students, which would satisfy the government and citizenship requirement, beginning in the 2020-2021 academic year.

Statewide Testing: Requires the education commissioner to establish a testing period as late as possible each academic year for the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments. Also, removes the requirement that the commissioner establish empirically derived benchmarks on adaptive assessments in grades 3 through 8.

Postsecondary Enrollment Courses according to agreements: Clarifies the definition of eligible institution. Requires districts and postsecondary institutions offering “introduction to teaching” dual-credit courses to report on certain enrollment demographics.

You can read more about adopted policy provisions in the Senate’s bill summary.

Long List of Policy Provisions That Were Not Adopted

While there were several policy provisions that were not adopted, the most widely covered (and sometimes contentious) policy issues did not. Below are descriptions of policies that are likely to be brought up again during either during the 2020 legislative session (policy/bonding) or the 2021 legislation session (budgeting).

Competency-Based Education (SF485/HF2190): The Senate omnibus included a bill that legitimized competency-based education, and made it explicit that student “can meet academic standards, earn credits and advance to higher levels of learning by demonstrating master of required state standards, regardless of time or pace of learning.”

This bill was borne from the voices of educators. 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 how important it is for statute to legitimize their work.

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

Alternative Teacher Preparation Grant Program (SF1270/HF1233): The Senate omnibus bill reauthorized funding for the 2017 grant program, which 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, Learning Disabilities Association of Minnesota, Lakes Country Service Cooperative, TNTP, and Teach For America. Since then, LCSC has received unit approval, and SWWCSC and TNTP have received conditional unit approval.

Teachers of Color Act (SF1012/HF824): Since 2015, the Coalition to Increase Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers (TOCAIT) has advocated for policies that are meant to increase the percentage of teachers of color in Minnesota. This legislative session TOCAIT advocated for a bill that included, among other things:

  • Expanding and strengthening “Grow Your Own” pathways.
  • Expanding the Collaborative Urban and Greater Minnesota Educators of Color Program grants.
  • Establishing an Aspiring Minnesota Teachers of Color Scholarship Program.
  • Establishing a Teacher Recruitment Marketing Campaign
  • Establishing “Come Teach in Minnesota” Hiring and Retention Bonuses program

Teacher Licensure (SF1557/HF1329): The House omnibus bill included several changes to the recently implemented four-tiered licensure system which include, but are not limited to:

  • Amending the number of Tier 1 renewals from three to one.
  • Removing language that a Tier 1 license in career and technical education or a shortage area may be renewed without limitation.
  • Allowing Tier 1 teachers to be part of the collective bargaining unit.
  • Amending the number of Tier 2 renewals from three to two.
  • Remove the Tier 2 to Tier 3 pathway for teachers who have not done teacher preparation.

Student Discipline (SF1874/HF1785): The House omnibus bill included language that would prohibit schools from suspending or expelling three-and-four year olds in prekindergarten and would require schools to use non-exclusionary discipline practices for nonviolent behaviors.

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