House lawmakers reviewed and debated some controversial bills this past week, including a new set of teacher licensure requirements.
Other Key Topics:
- Religious Freedom
- K-3 Suspension
- Mental Health
The House Education Policy Committee last week spent two hearings reviewing a bill that revises teacher licensure requirements under the Professional Educator Licensing & Standards Board (PELSB).
Dr. Yelena Bailey, representing PELSB, argued the new restrictions and requirements PELSB is proposing for the tiered licensure system are needed to better support Tier 1 and 2 teachers, especially teachers of color working their way into the teaching profession.
PELSB’s bill (Cedrick Fraizer, DFL —New Hope) is controversial and contains many provisions opposed by MREA and other education groups.
The House took up the issue of cultural inclusivity and religious freedom in schools in the past week. HF 909 (Hodan Hassan, DFL—Minneapolis) requires schools to have a policy on religious holidays, and excuses absences for students participating in religious holidays, which particularly impacts students who observe holidays that are not on the standardized Christian calendar.
Another bill provides an exemption for American Indian students to use natural tobacco in their medicine bags. These bags, outlined under HF 1626 (Ruth Richardson, DFL—Mendota Heights), are worn around the neck for spiritual purposes.
Prohibition on K-3 Suspension
A persistent topic in education has been and still is racial disparities in suspensions, and how those have lasting developmental, social, emotional and educational impacts on students who are removed from the classroom. HF 951 (Richardson) would prohibit the suspension of students in kindergarten through grade 3.
Proponents of the bill cited both the long-term effects of suspensions, and the inefficacy of dismissing students that young. Concerns arose in the Education Policy Committee on Wednesday, mostly relating to students who act out violently.
At the core of the issue is what is ‘subjective’ and what is ‘objective’ in terms of a school leader’s use of suspension. Perhaps better data and analysis is also needed as public education in Minnesota continues to improve in this area.
HF 486 (Sandra Feist, DFL—New Brighton) would fund suicide prevention training for teachers through an online interactive model, one that is highly praised by the teachers who have already participated in the training.