MREA sought to bring the voice of Greater Minnesota schools to the Capitol and virtually this legislative session to ensure state officials and lawmakers understand the pressing needs and future impacts.
Great progress was made with the development and introduction of a series of bills based on key E-12 priorities identified at the start of the session. As the COVID-19 pandemic became the focus, MREA actively connected with state officials to promote both flexibility and clarity in distance learning plans and essential school services.
Together, MREA’s membership of 230 public school districts and nearly 100 other supporting organizations achieved some key outcomes for Greater Minnesota students.
Key Advocacy Outcomes
- Preserve funding for Special Education and other categorical programs despite service interruptions due to distance learning
- Extend renewal deadlines for teacher licenses
- Provide fund transfer authority to school boards for fiscal years 2020-21
- Reduce youth vaping by raising the age to buy all tobacco products to 21
- Provide maps and analysis on broadband accessibility and advocate for expediting access for distance learning with federal COVID-19 relief funds
- Promote local flexibility and improve clarity in COVID-19 guidelines
Entering the 2020 non-budget legislative session, MREA positioned three priority issues for legislative action to support Minnesota’s E-12 public schools:
- Equity in funding for cooperative facilities and consolidating school districts
- Creating solutions for teacher shortages and CE credentialing
- Enhancing Safe Schools Funding to improve mental health and reducing vaping usage by students through T21
Key Initial Actions
MREA worked with legislative sponsors in both the House and Senate and on a bipartisan basis to introduce legislative solutions on these issues.
MREA worked with the Minnesota Department of Education and the Legislative Budget Office to hone in the language on our Cooperative Facilities bill (HF 1980/SF 1999).
Working with three regional groups, MREA helped legislators successfully introduce regional Grow Your Own initiatives that would fund teacher candidate development programs across central and northern Minnesota. MREA spent a significant amount of time leading the effort to find ongoing funding for the 18 On-line concurrent enrollment teacher credentialing program.
MREA also worked in partnership with our education allies to increase funding for the Safe Schools program along with our support for the T21 proposal to push tobacco purchases further upstream as a means to help keep vaping out of schools.
On a range of new education policy proposals, MREA was a constant presence in working to stop or slow the wave of new mandates. However, as the old saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. The COVID-19 pandemic set it just as our legislative efforts were taking root.
Bills that were scheduled for hearings in mid-March were cancelled, never to be taken up as the legislature went into a COVID-19 hiatus. When the legislature resumed work through remote hearings their focus was almost solely on the COVID-19 response, which it remains to this day.
End of Session
All is not lost, the groundwork laid this session on our priority issues will serve us well when the next opportunity arises.
In the last six weeks of the session, MREA focused in the legislature and with PELSB to ensure that school districts received the funding they had budged for FY ’20 despite interruptions in service delivery and teacher re-licensure and initial licensure could continue during the pandemic.
Throughout the transition to distance learning MREA has worked clarify guidance, provide a one-stop site for resources, and promote local flexibility within the MDH guidelines and MDE guidance.
A special session is expected on June 12, based on the governor’s peacetime emergency for COVID-19.
Stay apprised of resources and news on COVID-19 for schools at: MREAvoice.org/covid19