The House Education Finance and Policy Committees held their initial hearings this week where members shared their priorities and received updates from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the Professional Educators Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB).

House Education Finance

At the start of the House Education Finance Committee on Tuesday, Chair Jim Davnie asked members to share what schools they had in their districts  as well as their top priorities. The special education cross subsidy was a common theme among metro members, equity in the formula and levies a common theme for rural members. School safety and student supports for mental health and counseling were common across members of all stripes and regions.

The MDE presentation followed with a high level overview of school funding, student demographics, the achievement gap and ACT testing. Here are takeaways for each:

  • Funding: MDE shared how the formula hasn’t kept up with inflation since 2003 and schools have to spend an increasing amount of their general fund for special education.
  • Demographics: While graduation rates have increased in recent years for all students, we still have a long way to go to reduce the achievement gap for minority students.
  • ACT: Legislation passed in recent years has brought an increase in participation and access and Minnesota ranks among the highest in ACT scores across the nation. But as with graduation rates there are still barriers and gaps between student groups.

The report from PELSB showed that while there were challenges with rule-making and technical issues, they were able to license every teacher that needed one. It was a heavy lift to achieve that goal this year but now they are able to develop better systems for reporting and should be able to provide more information to the legislature.

On Thursday, Chair Davnie devoted the entire hearing to students who are members of the Minnesota Youth Council.  This was well worth the committee’s time as youth perspectives are rarely heard at the capitol.  They handled committee member questions like pros and gave them the straight story.  Download the Mp3

House Policy Update

Members of the House Education Policy Committee on Tuesday received a presentation from MDE on ESSA and the world’s best workforce as well as PELSB. Chair Cheryl Youakim followed Chair Davnie’s lead with members sharing their priorities. Mental health, the achievement gap and local control topped the list.

The report on ESSA provided a detailed history on the work Minnesota did to submit their proposal; making way for the new state plan for education in Minnesota. We have been commended for the attention to detail that was in that plan to the Federal Government and were one of the first states that got approval in 2018.