The House and Senate education committees reviewed a variety of bills impacting Greater Minnesota schools last week, including:

  • Increasing school lunch reimbursement for schools (laid over)
  • Establishing a new task force to evaluate the school funding system (approved)
  • Increasing the civics class requirement for high school (laid over)
  • Offering paid internships for high school students (transferred committees)
  • Providing online instruction during inclement weather (laid over)

Learn more about these bills, their impact and what’s next:

Increasing School Lunch Reimbursement

SF 1038 would allow school districts to add additional 5 cents reimbursement from the state to help fund districts’ school lunch programs. Both state and federal dollars cover most of the costs for school lunch. The bill, authored by Sen. Bill Weber (R-Luverne), costs about $5 million per year ongoing.

The Senate E-12 Finance Committee laid the bill over for possible inclusion in the education finance omnibus bill. Rep. Deb Keil (R-Crookston) is the House author and it has not had a bill hearing yet in the other body.

New School Finance Task Force

HF149 would establish a school finance task force to propose changes for Minnesota’s school funding system. The group would adopt goals to make school finance formulas more equitable and efficient, while identifying changes that need to be made. No fiscal note was provided.

“The state’s school finance system has become cumbersome and inefficient,” said Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grover City), who authored the bill, “We have complicated how we fund schools, we can do a better job.”

The task force would consist of 15 members, with the governor, the House Education Finance Committee and the Senate education committee each appointing five nominees. Each member would be permanent until the group sunsets.

Approved by the House Ed Policy Committee, the bill now heads to the House Government Operations and Elections Policy Committee. It has no Senate companion.

Increased Civics Requirement

Later on Tuesday, the  heard SF 1061 authored by Sen. Cwodzinski (DFL-Eden Prairie) which would require additional civics classes be taken as a requirement for high school graduation. The bill states one-half credit 9th grade civics course shall be taught and required and one-half credit civics course shall be taught and required for either 11th or 12th grade as well. Sen. Cwodzinski is a high school social studies teacher and was very passionate advocating for his bill during committee.

“Students are just starting to become interested in politics in their 11th and 12th grade years as they begin to consider voting for the first time in their lives,” he said.

The Minnesota School Boards Association testified in opposition to the bill. The Senate E-12 Policy Committee laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus bill.

Paid Internships for High School Students

HF 631 would allow students to obtain a paid internship at various businesses with an emphasis on manufacturing, heavy industry, and technical fields. The goal would be for students to learn job skills even before graduating from high school. This would be similar to an apprenticeship type of program that many trade unions offer.

Dubbed “youth skills training program,” it would be administered through the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. Schools and businesses would form a partnership for student participation and the students would receive academic credit as well. The program would cost $600,000.

It was passed out of the House Education Finance Committee and referred to the committee on Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance.

Online Instruction During Inclement Weather

HF 1421 would allow school districts toprovide up to five days of online instruction during inclement weather. The so-called “E-learning day” would count as a full day of student instruction. Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) is sponsoring the bill.

Dave Anderson, principal at Zumbrota-Mazeppa Schools, testified that the switch has been a beneficial one. The district adopted the concept in the Fall of 2015. “The concept of the snow day being a free day isn’t going on anymore,” he said. The district now has Weather Induced Learning Days, or WILD days. “It’s been very positive from an administrative standpoint, and for our parents.”

The House Ed Policy Committee laid the bill over for possible inclusion in the omnibus bill. Its companion, SF1241, sponsored by Sen. Greg Clausen (DFL-Apple Valley), awaits action by the  Senate E-12 Policy Committee.