School safety remains the primary conversation in the Minnesota House and Senate education committees. The conversation has broadened beyond ‘hardening of targets’ and school resource officers (SROs) and now includes discussion around staffing for counselors and mental health specialists.

Youth development opportunities outside normal classroom hours have been reviewed in the House. The committees are also looking at school discipline practices and considering whether or not to require schools to use non-exclusionary dismissal practices.

The House Education Finance Committee on Thursday reviewed HF 3796, authored by Chair Rep. Jenifer Loon. The concept of the bill is to appropriate money from the state’s bonding bill to schools to use for school safety facility grants.

MREA Executive Director Fred Nolan testified in strong support of the bill. He shared this would give flexibility to schools with long-term facilities maintenance and that these grants would stretch dollars and not burden property taxpayers. He also praised the details in the bill relating to the implementation of the grants.

In the bill, there is to be an equal split in grants between Greater Minnesota and the metro area.  The bill calls for MDE distribute the grants in consultation with the Department of Public Safety’s Minnesota School Safety Center. Nolan testified that this would be a good start and provide an indicator of statewide needs.

The bill will be reviewed in the House Capital Investment Committee Tuesday afternoon.

The idea of using the state’s bonding bill to fund school facility safety projects was discussed with Sen. Carrie Ruud and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka last week when Region 5 superintendents made their MASA visit to the Capitol.

The Majority Leader didn’t dismiss the idea and noted it would be a way to reduce the immediate cost to the state’s general fund and could help keep the burden off of property taxpayers.