Conversations on educational equity continued in the House and Senate with varying approaches discussed, including a constitutional amendment and vouchers.
A host of testifiers shared their perspectives on the “Page Amendment,” calling for a constitutional amendment to create a fundamental right for all children to have access to a high quality public education. During the informational discussion held by the House Education Policy Committee, some were passionately for HF 874 and others opposed to it.
Some shared concerns that it limits the agency of homeschoolers, some asked for more clarity and specificity on language used in the bill, and many testifiers argued that it would help build culturally competent schools and help develop Minnesota as a leader in education. Testifiers from the NAACP argued the new constitutional amendment would actually weaken the state’s legal structure and court precedence for desegregation in Minnesota.
In the Senate, where no companion bill exists for the Page Amendment, Education Chair Roger Chamberlain spent committee time pushing legislation creating an “educational savings account.” The bill (SF 1525) would increase flexibility in school choice by creating savings accounts that would follow the student, rather than the stay within the student’s residential district.
Opinions on this bill were divided. Many believe it to be an adequate step towards equity, while others argued the bill diverts funding towards private schools, which have few mechanisms for accountability.
Sen. Chamberlain also has another bill to fund vouchers. View SF 260.
Chamberlain opposes the Page Amendment and he sees school choice as the route to educational equity. He would rather give low-income parents resources to send their children to educational providers of their choice than see the state face litigation over public school programming and services.
Other voucher or private school funding bills have been reviewed in the Senate this session. The Senate Tax committee reviewed a bill (SF 1153, Eichorn) to expand the educational tax credit bill to include private tuition. The bill would automatically increase the value of the tax.