Minnesota Legislature Reconvenes

The 2024 legislative session is underway amidst a lot of uncertainty about the health of the state’s budget. We’ll get an update to the November budget forecast on February 28. Fingers are crossed that it will show an improvement in GDP numbers in the out years of the current two-year fiscal cycle. Right now, leadership has clamped down on the idea of spending additional state dollars, especially programs and services that would have an on-going budget impact. A Capital Investment bill or “bonding bill” is a featured component of this session, but with a super majority required for passage, it makes for difficult political math to secure the votes necessary to get it to the Governor’s desk. The Governor proposed a $982 million bonding bill, a more modest framework than the nearly $2.5B capital investment package of general obligation bonds and cash for projects that passed in 2023.

School Resource Officers

HF 3489 Official Link

As was promised, early action on a ‘fix’ to the SRO issue has taken place with a bill advancing in both the House and Senate last week. Rep. Cedrick Frazier and Sen. Bonnie Westlin hope to thread the needle and give their DFL leadership a bill that can pass with broad support in their respective majority caucuses. Student voices on the topic have mostly been in opposition to changing the new law that set off a firestorm last August. However, a group of students from Robbinsdale spoke in favor of ‘brining back their SROs’ during a House Public Safety hearing last Tuesday night, where it was laid over to give the Senate committees time to advance the bill in their chamber.

School district officials have asked for more clarification around staff ability to use restraints in situations dealing with property damage. The bill will be scrutinized and debated in the Senate’s Judiciary Committee Monday, February 19 at 12:30 pm. This is the most intellectually rigorous committee in the Senate, perhaps the legislature, and it will be interesting to watch the attorneys of the Senate debate the nuances of how restraints may or may not be used, by whom, and in what circumstances.

15 Minutes for Lunch

HF 3556 Official Link

Rep. Sydney Jordan, chief author of the MN Free Meals bill last year, wants to ensure students have at least 15 minutes to sit down and eat their lunch. With increased lunch participation, staff shortages, limited space and excited students who take a little too long to get through the line, squeezing out time for a proper lunch period is easier said than done. The school day is packed, bus schedules are tight and it feels nearly impossible to get it all done in a school day. Still, parents, students and nutrition staff are asking building principals, teachers and other staff to help ensure students have time to consume a nutritious meal and not be forced to throw food away or skip lunch altogether. MDE has reported that lunches served are up 11% year over year and breakfasts served are up 31%.

The READ Act

Every day it seems like the READ Act is mentioned in one setting or another. More funding for staff time and curriculum purchases are at the top of mind for many. If there is supplemental spending in E-12 this year, the READ Act appears to be a top choice for many to add state dollars.

Prohibition on Banning Books

SF 3567 Official Link

The MDE Policy bill has been introduced and will undergo an initial review in the Senate Education Policy Committee this week. It includes a proposed section of law that would prohibit the banning of books in public and school libraries. This is a priority for the Governor and the details of the language need close scrutiny to make sure schools are able to comply and not get tripped up in age appropriate book selection processes and the staff required to make said selection. Please review the language found starting on line 49.19 of the official link above.