Universal Meals Bill Heads to Ways and Means, Committee Hearings Continue

Last week was jam packed with lengthy committee hearings, in addition to marathon floor sessions debating big DFL priorities.

Perhaps the bigger focus for many was on Governor Walz and his administration who released their full budget proposal on January 24 and bonding package recommendations on January 26. These proposals are usually a good signal to what may be taken on by the House and Senate. This is especially true considering the DFL trifecta.

Dubbed the Due North Education Plan, Walz’s education package totals $6.9B. This includes a formula increase by four percent in the current biennium and a further two percent in the following biennium. The formula increase would also be tied to inflation starting in fiscal year 2026, with increases based on the Consumer Price Index and capped at three percent. Those changes to the formula would amount to $716.7M in increased funding in the 2024-25 biennium and $1.4B in 2026-27.

House Education Prioritizes Mental Health, Sends Universal Meals to Ways and Means

House Education Policy considered the proposal to create two lead positions at MDE for mental health services. Some members pushed back, questioning why MDE couldn’t just create these positions themselves. Bill author Rep. Moller and the testifiers in support of the bill said that the COVID pandemic laid bare a lot of the needs in this issue area and that point people at MDE would be a helpful resource for schools. The bill was re-referred to Education Finance.

House Education Finance had a hearing to discuss the Universal Meals bill (HF5). Several testfiers came to speak in support of the bill. There was very little discussion. Rep. Edelson referred to the bill as a “historic moment” for Minnesota. The bill was passed on to Ways and Means, the last committee stop before a floor vote.

Senate Education follows the House, and sends Universal Meals to its final committee

Senate Education Policy considered a bill that would create a civics requirement for High School students (SF618), as well as a proposal to expand the definition of “shared time pupils” to include students attending CTE programs (SF332). SF618 was laid over for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill and SF332 was re-referred to Education Finance.

Senate Education Finance considered the Senate’s version of the Universal Meals bill (SF123). Republican Senators questioned why the state would pay for wealthy Minnesotans childrens’ lunches. The bill passed and was sent to Senate Finance, the last stop before a floor vote.

The committee also heard the proposal to prohibit dismissals for students in K-3.

This week in Education Committees

Senate Education Finance

Senate Education Finance will discuss the following bills:

  • SF613 (Cwodzinski) – authorization of school board renewal of an expired referendum
  • SF401 (Kunesh) – increased appropriation for developmental screening
  • SF53 (Wiklund) – extension of stabilization grants for child care centers

Senate Education Policy

Senate Education Policy will discuss the following bills:

  • SF635 (Kunesh) – allows for American Indian regalia at graduation ceremonies
  • SF579 (Maye Quade) – requires school to test for lead, and if found take action towards remediation
  • SF619 (Kunesh) – Teachers of Color Act modification
  • SF449 (Gustafson) – requires MDE to hire two lead positions to serve as a source of information and support for schools in addressing the mental health needs of students, teachers, and school staff
  • SF239 (Draheim) – requires school boards to publish certain information about consulting fees

House Education Policy

House Education Policy will discuss the following bills:

  • HF112 (Pryor) – review of physical education standards delayed until 2026-2027
  • HF678 (Elkins) – requirement for pedestrian training and other “active transportation” safety training for students
  • HF620 (Youakim) – paid orientation for paraprofessionals
  • HF613 (Hanson) – High School students allowed to earn elective credits through employment with health care providers

House Education Finance

House Education Finance will discuss the following bills:

  • HF18 (Wolgamott) – full payment of the SPED cross subsidy by fiscal year 2024
  • HF21 (Vang) – funding for full-service community schools
  • HF22 (Her) – full payment of the ELL cross subsidy by fiscal year 2027
  • HF8 (Berg) – $20M over two years in aid to schools to hire additional student support services personnel
  • HF456 (Pérez-Vega) – VPK expansion and school readiness plus program made permanent
  • HF193 (Huot) – grant funding for EMS courses
  • HF535 (Frazier) – authorization of school board renewal of an expired referendum