The number one topic of the week at the Capitol by far was school safety. The Senate, House, and Governor all unveiled their ideas on how to make Minnesota’s schools safer.
Sen. Carla Nelson, Chair of the Senate Education Finance Committee, introduced on Monday a bill that would designate school safety funding in a new safe school revenue account. Under SF 2754, this account will consist of the current safe school levy and a new category called safe school aid. School officials could use the money as they see fit for things like additional PSO’s, building upgrades, or bullet proof glass.
The Senate Republicans laid out their session priorities and school safety is one of their top agenda items.
On Tuesday, Rep. Jenifer Loon, Chair of the House Education Finance Committee, unveiled a plan to amends the Long-Term Facility Maintenance (LTFM) revenue to allow for school safety upgrades. There’s no additional room under the current revenue cap in the bill, so most rural districts would need to amend their current LTFM plans if they wanted to shift focus to school safety. Learn more about her bill, HF 3320.
When testifying on this, MREA Executive Director Fred Nolan urged the committee to help with the revenue cap and to also look at additional levy options for cooperative programs. View key points of MREA’s testimony.
Gov. Dayton wants to channel nearly $16 million of that to Minnesota schools next year. Schools would able to use that funding on whatever building safety improvements they deem necessary, including bullet-resistant glass, entrance security or additional school resource officers and counselors.
The $16 million would also help support a new school district requirement, which is intended to identify and assist students at risk of becoming violent.
Under the plan proposed by the Governor, districts would have to do a threat assessment before expelling students and provide them with additional services. His proposal also includes an additional $5 million to bolster mental health programs in schools.
Student rallied at the Capitol on Wednesday, demanding changes to school safety and gun laws in Minnesota. Over 2000 students walked out of St. Paul schools, and a handful of others, and marched to the Capitol.
There they staged a rally that over 5,000 people attended. Student leaders spoke out on the inaction of legislators to make any changes to protect students. While some legislators did attend and talk to the crowd, many of the students seemed unsatisfied with what they heard.
The students vowed to continue to pressure lawmakers in the wake of the Parkland shooting.
Everyone agrees that something must be done. While the details in the three proposals on school safety are different and the revenue sources have yet to be finalized, the Legislature is almost certainly going to take action to assist with enhancing security in schools.
Whether or not there will be any movement on gun legislation is less certain. No further hearings on any potential changes have been scheduled.