Week 8: Legislature Continues Work on Omnibus Bills

Senate advances omnibus Education Policy bill (SF 3567) while House Education Policy omnibus bill (HF 3782) awaits floor debate

Last Tuesday, the Legislature returned from spring break and the Senate dove right back into policy work, taking up SF 3567, their omnibus Education Policy bill. Sen. Jason Rarick (GOP Pine City) led the Republican critique, but it more so focused on the 2023 package of legislative mandates passed by the DFL Trifecta. Rarick offered an amendment that would have given school districts a three-year reprieve from implementing the mandates passed during the 2023 session, and it would have given districts broad authority to move fund balances around over the same time period. DFLers rejected the amendment, and it failed on a party line vote.

Sen. Jim Abeler (GOP Anoka) tried a more narrow approach and offered an amendment to open up the allowable uses of student support personnel aid to include contracted student mental health services. Again, this failed on a party line vote. Abeler was successful in getting an amendment passed allowing schools to use their student support personnel aid to maintain existing student support services personnel positions, including positions established prior to the 2023-2024 school year and positions initially funded with local, state, or federal resources. A Superintendent would need to provide the Commissioner of MDE with a statement of assurances that the positions would be eliminated without this flexibility.

In response to funding requests to help schools replace indigenous themed mascots, Sen. Mary Kunesh (DFL New Brighton) offered an amendment to push the deadline for addressing this requirement to September 1, 2026. The amendment was adopted.

Sen. Rob Farnsworth (GOP Hibbing) said his school leaders, who he works next to as a special educator, tell him the top reason for needed summer school is for students to try and attain credit in Algebra II, which he argued he hasn’t had to use since he graduated from high school in 1996. He offered an amendment to get rid of the Algebra II graduation requirement, but it failed by a large margin, 12-53.

Sen. Julia Coleman (GOP Waconia) and Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL Minneapolis) worked out an amendment that was adopted, to create a “whistleblower protection” for teachers who inform parents about violent incidents occurring in their schools.

Lastly, Sen. Erin Maye Quade (DFL Apple Valley) offered an amendment to rename “World’s Best Workforce” and recharacterize some of the component requirements of the statute. Her amendment retitles MS 120B.11 “School District Process for Reviewing curriculum, instruction, and student achievement goals; striving for comprehensive achievement and civic readiness.” There was support for this among GOP members, but not for the proposed changing of “achievement” to “opportunity” when referring to gaps that schools must identify. A compromise was struck between members to have the statute note that schools are to identify “achievement and opportunity gaps.” The amendment was adopted, and a new mandate was added. We’ll need to dissect the implications of this proposed language now that it’s advancing in the legislative process.

Overall, the bill represents a much milder version of education policy initiatives compared to what was included in the 2023 package. The prohibition on book banning is signature piece of the bill, one Governor Walz has made clear he wants on his desk for signature into law. The bill passed 35-31, receiving 1 GOP vote from Sen. Jim Abeler, who was the one GOP member to vote for the final education bill in 2023.