State legislators discussed two major education bills this week: one that would help address funding shortfalls for special education and another that would support the funding of full-service community schools, which offer a more holistic approach to education, integrating academic, social, and health services.

House File 21, authored by Representative Samantha Vang (DFL - District 38B), would provide funding for full-service community schools and House File 18, authored by Representative Dan Wolgamott (DFL - District 14B), would fully fund special education services in Minnesota. 

Minneapolis Public Schools Interim Superintendent Rochelle Cox spoke at the House Education Finance hearing in support of more funding for special education.

“The bonds that our teachers and our support staff make with students are a critical component to effective teaching and that is even more important for our students receiving special education services,” said Cox in her testimony. “This bill will ensure that districts have the resources to hire and fairly pay our staff supporting students receiving special education services.”

Cox noted that MPS has 52 unfilled special education teacher positions and 107 unfilled special education paraprofessional positions. 

Legislators discussed the purpose of the general fund, the “legislature’s responsibility in creating the problem,” a need to pressure the federal government to support funding for special education, and the current and potential costs of special education in Minnesota. 

The discussion ended with a reminder from the House Education Finance committee chair Representative Cheryl Youakim (DFL - District 46B) that “there were children behind the numbers and childhood doesn’t have a rewind button.” 

House File 18 has bipartisan support and was slotted for further discussion in the same committee. 

Here are some of the other bills with implications for  MPS that legislators took up this week:

  • On Feb. 1, in the Senate Education Finance committee, the Governor’s 2023 proposed education budget was presented and discussed. 
  • In the House Education Finance committee, legislators discussed House File 22, authored by Representative Kaohly Vang Her (DFL - District 64A), which would fully fund English Learner Language programs across the State of Minnesota. 
  • Finally, also on Feb. 1, the Senate Education Policy committee discussed a bill from Assistant Majority Leader Senator Mary Kunesh (DFL - District 39), House File 619, which would appropriate funding to increase the number of teachers of color across Minnesota

Outside of the education finance and education policy committees, a few other pieces of legislation pertinent to MPS were discussed, as well. For example, several bills on lead poisoning and remediation were discussed, as was legislation that would make it legal for hourly school workers (bus drivers, lunch staff, maintenance staff, etc.) to access unemployment insurance during the summer months when they are traditionally unable to continue working for their district temporarily. 

Here is what’s on the calendar for next week: 

Legislative Calendar: Feb. 6 - Feb. 10

  • On Feb. 7, the Senate Education Finance committee is discussing legislation aimed at increasing the number of teachers of color across the State of Minnesota. 

Just a reminder that you can visit the Minnesota State Legislature weekly calendar to see what’s on the agenda for the various committees and floor sessions each week. Additionally, you can check that schedule each day to figure out what committees are available to be viewed virtually.