The pace of the 2020 Legislative Session is already picking up, especially in the House where the DFL hopes to establish their policy agenda early. Short sessions like this one are notorious for clipping along at a fast and furious pace.
House Education Finance Chairman Jim Davnie has continued to make it a point for the Committee to hear from students and parents. Several students of color in the past week spoke about their experiences dealing with adversity of many stripes. They called for smaller class sizes, more teachers and other school personnel, like counselors and mental health experts, to be available to help them as they journey through their educational career.
Speaker Melissa Hortman has made it clear that a big part of this session is to draw attention to the differences between her DFL caucus, which is driven an aggressive group of new suburban members and urban progressives, and the more rural GOP dominated Senate.
Investments in early childhood will lead the House DFL supplemental budget discussion. At a press conference last week, Speaker Hortman, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler and Early Childhood Chair Dave Pinto outlined a bill to spend $500 million of the $1.3 billion surplus on child care assistance and early learning scholarships.
Gov. Tim Walz hasn’t offered a major reaction to the House DFL proposal. He’s mostly indicated that he wants a smaller supplemental budget bill, but that it would have a focus on education when he unveils it after the February budget forecast (Feb. 27).
The Senate GOP appreciates the House DFL acknowledging early learning scholarships over school based preK funding, but is still skeptical about funding the child care assistance program (CCAP), despite state agency efforts to address fraud complaints in that program.
House Education Policy Chair Cheryl Youakim understands that she has limited time this session to advance portions of the ambitious education policy agenda her colleagues desire. Over the next four weeks her committee will work through the Minnesota Department of Education’s policy priorities, non-exclusionary discipline, radon testing, policies on handling unclaimed drugs, respectful treatment in the cafeteria when kids have negative lunch balances, mental health and more.
Talk of advancing DFL bills from last session on teacher licensure and comprehensive sex education seem to be silent for now. The Senate GOP’s interest in moving forward on any education policy remains to be seen. They’ve opposed much of what the Walz administration and House DFLers have proposed to date and that likely won’t change over the next few months.