House Education Finance: Public Testimony Notes (March 29)

Education Finance & Policy Omnibus Bill Testimony

Department of Education Commissioner Willie Jett

  • Calls the bill ambitious
  • “With this budget surplus, you were presented with a historic opportunity to make transformational investments in our education system. You have certainly gone a long way to meeting this and have brought forward an impressive range of solutions to meet the challenges that persist in our education system.” 
  • “You provide funding for the fundamental building blocks of school finance so schools have the resources to provide an excellent teaching and learning environment to all of our students.” 
  • “The bill targets resources at academics, mental health, behavioral and wraparound supports that our students and families need, and that they deserve.”
  • “Our educators are the bedrock of our education system. This includes not only our teachers, administrators but also our specialists and support staff. The proposal meets the workforce challenges we have head-on.” 
  • ‘This budget recognizes the crucial role that MDE plays in our education ecosystem by providing much-needed resources and funding critical programs and operations.” 
  • Thanks committee for including “so many” of the Governor’s proposed policies and budget bills
  • “One of the reasons this budget meets the historic opportunity in front of us, with this surplus, is because for the very first time, in a very long time, it is an unleashed effort at putting serious funding towards our most fundamental formulas that are the lifeblood for programming, operations, contracts, and deserved and required services for students with diverse needs.” 
  • “Thank you for matching the Governor’s investment on the formula by not only investing 4% in FY24 and 2% in FY25, but finally linking the formula to inflation. This linking is a game-changer that starts to provide hope that the system has an automatic lever built in that will allow districts and charters to more confidently budget and educators to more securely plan for the next year.”
  • “For too long schools have been meeting the needs of our students receiving special education services without the necessary dedicated funding. This budget makes a significant dent in that underfunding. Thank you for matching the Governor’s proposal to buy the special education cross-subsidy down by 50%. This relieves pressures on operating budgets thereby benefiting all students.”
  • “I also want to highlight the inclusion of several target special education investments that will make a significant difference in the lives of our children and educators, and quality of our schools.” 
  • “Funding services for students receiving special education services until age 22 to match federal law. Providing extra funding for intermediates and co-ops for settings 4 and higher. Assuring young students receiving early education, early childhood special services in VPK [Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten] rooms have breakfast and English-learner services paid for. And eliminating the disparities in hours of instruction for kindergarteners with a disability.”
  • “I’m happy to see funding for English learners included. For too long this formula, this funding formula has remained flat. With a growing number of English learner families coming to Minnesota every year, we must come together to make the investments to provide their children with opportunities they deserve.”
  • “Thank you for providing the Governor and Lt. Governor’s promised amount for American Indian Education. Our American Indian students have so much to offer yet they have been so underserved. This funding dedicated to American Indian student outcomes and achievement is critical to the success of American Indian communities, as well.”  
  • “Thank you for including many of the components of the READ Act and BOLD Literacy proposals. I appreciate the work of Rep. Edelson, with my team, to merge proposals and this bill represents our top policy priorities from both. These investments will create a more robust and targeted system focused on evidence-based literacy outcomes. We commit to continuing to work with the House on enhancing these investments to cover more areas like data analysis and finding ways to fund these initiatives on an ongoing basis.”
  • “We would like to thank you for the inclusion of funding for our multi-tiered systems of support, MTSS, and Compass Initiatives. This programming will allow districts and charters to build capacity to meet the academic, behavioral, developmental, social, and emotional needs of all of our students. And with these allocations targeted toward math instruction, this bill continues its focus on supporting core academic outcomes. For this too we commit to working with you to find ongoing funding for this much-needed initiative.”
  • “I am confident that this year we will make the 4000 expiring VPK seats permanent. This will provide some stability and access to high-quality programming in the early childhood space which can significantly impact our littlest ones’ life trajectory for the better, and so thank you for making these permanent in this bill.”
  • “I’m also very thankful that you are funding 5200 new school-based VPK slots. This is a significant increase and an opportunity.”
  • “I do believe that there is room for an even bigger game-changer and my team, along with the Children’s Cabinet, will work with you to increase the average daily membership to 1.0.”
  • “Contributing resources to the wraparound services and enrichment opportunities to our families and children will make more of our schools community hubs that they aspire to be. So thank you for the targeted investment in full-service community schools and after-school learning grants.”
  • “Making sure that our educators are supported and valued and that our schools have the resources they need to recruit and retain a high-quality and diverse workforce is fundamental to the world-class education we must provide our students here in Minnesota.”
  • “Thank you for providing ongoing funding for Grow Your Own programs to diversify the teacher workforce. We know that students learn better when they see themselves in the adults who work with them everyday, and Minnesota needs to be better here. This bill invests in these Grow Your Own programs.”
  • “We also know that our children and our students have various needs that support personnel can and will meet. We also know that Minnesota has some of the worst student-to-support personnel ratios in the country. We just lack the dedicated resources to hire our support personnel like school nurses, psychologists, social workers, counselors, and chemical dependency counselors, and this bill provides those much-needed resources as well as provides viable solutions for creating a workforce pipeline for our support personnel.”
  • “Our support staff, many hourly workers, are critical to the functioning and success of our schools. However, staying in these positions is many times untenable when summer hours drop-off and they are barred from collecting unemployment insurance. By removing the prohibition of these workers accessing unemployment insurance, we remove another barrier for people staying in the public education sector.”
  • “And so I understand the monumental task of putting the budget together and the pressure placed on funding in this area, and so finally, I would just like to say thank you for funding so many of the supports at MDE including operations;  equity, diversity, and inclusion staff; the Office of Inspector General; audit and internal controls team, Ed Finance and litigation costs. So lastly just thank you for the opportunity to lend my support for this historic bill in partnership as we move forward on behalf of our students, families, educators, schools, and communities.” 

Public Testifiers & Testimony

Nicole Mittelstaedt , Elementary Spanish Teacher in Hopkins Public Schools

  • In support of the omnibus education budget 
  • “As a teacher I try to be proactive rather than reactive. I think of possible problems that could arise and put measures in place to ensure they don’t hinder my students from being successful. While being proactive is best practice, we have been reactive rather than proactive with our education budget for decades.”
  • “One proactive aspect of this budget is the dedicated funding for mental health professionals like school counselors, psychologists, nurses, and social workers.”
  • “Our pandemic students have been suffering from some of the most severe mental health issues in years and dedicated funding to retain these support professionals will help mitigate these struggles.”
  • “Paraprofessionals are another critical part of our education system. And this budget ensures that our paras have the training they need, they deserve to help them make the connections with students that will help them succeed.”
  • Says that her school recently had to cut use of paras down to extreme need only because there is not enough paraeducators in MPS 
  • Says that she, while pregnant, and “several other students” were assaulted by a reactive student, believes “adequate support staff, sufficiently trained paraprofessionals, and special education staff with appropriate case loads this traumatizing situation may have been proactively prevented.”
  • “In conclusion, educators like myself are highly qualified and deserve the tools that come with this budget to allow us to safely and effectively do our job. We desperately need the funds provided by this budget, but we also need strings tied to these funds to ensure they are used only for their intended purposes and not for more administrators. This is the time to be proactive rather than reactive to our educational system and our first step is to pass this education budget.” 

Dr. Bernadeia Johnson, Associate Professor at MSU-Mankato in Educational Leadership, Former Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent

  • Speaks on subject of discipline disparities “that create exclusionary environments for our students in pre-K through 3rd grade”
  • “Students who are not in school cannot learn. Students who are pushed out of school lack a sense of belonging. And students who don’t learn how to do school cannot develop agency.” 
  • Speaks of efforts at MPS, a moratorium on suspending students in Pre-K through 2nd grade for non-violent behaviors
  • “Our state has such gaping discipline disparities for students of color and for students with disabilities. This happens when expectations are not clear, consequences don’t match the behavior, and when consequences differ based on the student’s demographic.”
  • Discusses MPS efforts, shares specific student examples regarding discipline disparities and discusses a collaboration with NAMI re student mental health 

Amy Walstein, Senior Policy Director at the Minnesota Business Partnership 

  • MBP is a trade association “representing over 100 senior business leaders and they are united by a common goal of eliminating education disparities and preparing all Minnesotans for future success.” 
  • Thanks Rep. Edelson for her work on the READ Act. “The READ Act sends a powerful message to Minnesotans that we’re ready to abandon the wait-to-fail model. For too many kids, we don’t know they are struggling readers until we have their 3rd grade MCA scores and they’re not showing proficiency. And by 4th grade it becomes so hard to catch up. But with advances in brain science and extensive research on how kids learn to read we know better and we can do better. Teaching practices aligned to the science of reading and evidence-based instruction can make a difference in student’s lives.”
  • “This bill makes several important advances to improving early literacy. Number one, tracking all K-3 teachers in practices that are aligned to evidence-based instruction. Two, establishing the framework for using multi-tiered systems of support. And three, setting the stage for evidence-based curriculum. It also provides, most importantly I think, screening tools for all kids starting in kindergarten and that’s where I want to ask the committee to keep going, because I think that the progress monitoring, if it leads to a required personalized reading intervention plan that will help students and equip them with what they need, without having to push for IEPs.”
  • “Effectively teaching kids to read is an economic and moral imperative, for their future success and for our state’s future success, and I hope you will continue to strengthen this bill.” 

Scott Helland, Literacy Action Network member and adult education coordinator 

  • Thanks the committee for their support of the cap change from $22 to $30/student contact hour “at no cost to the legislature.”
  • Thanks the committee for their support of specific adult education programs including GED funding. 
  • “ABE [Adult Basic Education] provides second chances to our adult learners and supports economic development in Minnesota. Adult learners are able to get the tools they need to move forward in their life to be self-sufficient and participate effectively as productive workers, family members, and citizens. ABE is also essential to serving our low-income and immigrant communities. Through ABE they have the opportunity to improve their literacy and employment skills so they can truly participate in their children’s lives, the workforce, and our community.”
  • “Adult education students can be our most vulnerable adults and get lost in our systems. These adults are often parents that can better assist their children with their K-12 education when they themselves have improved their education. Most adult education professionals have a K-12 license rather than a specific adult education licensure. 83% of adult education budgets for programs in the metro area are currently wages and salaries.”
  • “Rep. [Kristi Pursell’s (DFL – District 58A) bill, HF1970, would’ve tied future ABE increases to K-12 increases. While not included today we ask you to consider some additional factors to increase funding to adult education.”
    • States specific spending statistics based on fiscal year

Dr. Paul Spies, Coalition to Increase Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers co-founder and faculty member at Metro State University 

  • “Thank you for your leadership on this historic bill that will do more than ever in terms of needed policies and investments to increase the percentage of BIPOC teachers in our Pre-K-12 schools throughout the state.”
  • “In terms of policies, thank you for adopting the provisions in the ed policy omnibus bill that will make school climate and curriculum more affirming, respectful, and inclusive for BIPOC students, families, and educators while nurturing intercultural and interracial understanding and unity among various groups.”
  • “Thank you also for adopting proposals from the Increase Teachers of Color Act for strengthening grant programs, such as Grow Your Own, Come Teach in Minnesota, teacher mentorship and retention, as well as amendments to the Collaborative Urban-Greater Minnesota Educator of Color Grants Program, which are aligned with the legislative auditor’s report recommendations.”
  • “The Coalition is neutral on some of the policies in the bill such as tiered licensure because individual coalition members and member organizations have very divided views about the impact as you’ve heard earlier this session and you might hear today.”
  • “In terms of investments we appreciate you fully funding our proposals for several programs,” including teacher mentorship and retention, American Indian teacher prep, and others “although it falls short of our proposals and district applications for Grow Your Own funding, we appreciate the significant increase in Grow Your Own money you provided and we hope you will be able to find a way to agree to the Senate’s higher target for this grant program.” 
  • “We wish you had a larger target and that all the pent-up needs of much bigger systemic investments in this bill didn’t crowd out our other proposed investments from this committee.”
  • Names other grant programs coalition believes are needed to increase BIPOC teachers in the state 

Scott Croonquist, Association of Metropolitans School Districts 

  • Thanks the committee for their work “putting together an exceptional bill.” 
  • “Before the session our Board identified four key themes that we hoped the legislature would address. Number one was funding stability. For far too long our education funding system has been anything but stable. We are very pleased that the bill included linking the formula to inflation and significantly addressing the cross-subsidies in the special education and English learner programs. Finally, allowing your locally-elected school boards to renew an existing referendum would add a great deal of stability to the funding system.”
  • “Our second priority was addressing student mental health. Here the establishment of the student support personnel aid will be tremendous in helping hire additional support staff that we need to help our students address mental health needs.”
  • “Our third priority was closing opportunity gaps. Here the bill’s inclusion of the VPK program and making that permanent and expanding the seats and the READ Act will greatly help us close our unacceptable achievement gaps and opportunity gaps.”
  • “Finally, diversifying the educator workforce and addressing the teacher shortage was another priority and investments in Grow Your Own, Black Men Teach, teacher residency, and mentoring-induction-retention programs are greatly appreciated.”
  • “Just a few areas we would like to continue working with you on in the remaining weeks. Number one, we would like to see that year-two formula allowance come up. That will leave school districts in a bit of a situation. We’ll have challenges in that second year. Number two we hope we can look at funding the expansion of the unemployment insurance benefits program if state aid can’t be provided, you can look at using the current unemployment levy. And finally we are opposed to the terms and conditions of employment. We believe your locally-elected school boards, who are directly accountable to their citizens and responsible for the care and management of all aspects of their district, will take care and can better govern the district and meet all the needs.” 

Sue Abderholden, Executive Director of NAMI-MN

  • “We support expanding extended time revenue for students attending day treatment or residential treatment. These children are not receiving as many hours of education while participating in this intensive treatment.”
  • “We support the discipline policies. Non-exclusionary discipline really is important and  then making sure we have school-linked social-emotional learning is a part of it.”
  • “Allowing students who are suspended the opportunity to complete assignments and providing education to students who are suspended for more than five days is important so they don’t fall even further behind than their peers.” 
  • “Requiring school discipline policies to have a complaint process is also important as is discouraging recess detention. It’s important to students’ mental health to actually move. It releases endorphins in the brain.”
  • “We support requiring eight hours of paid orientation and training for paraprofessionals who work so directly with our children.”
  • “We of course support funding new school support personnel.”
  • “We support requiring the restricted procedures’ oversight committees to look at the disproportionality of the use of restrictive procedures and the role of school resource officers and banning the use of seclusion for children from birth through pre-kindergarten in a period of time.” 
  • “Also, allowing a child in residential or day treatment to continue their education with their current district through online learning really helps in terms of continuity of care”
  • “We continue to have some concerns with the wording with school social workers billing medicaid but we’ll continue to work with you on that.”
  • “We really appreciate adding a mental health lead at the Department and we believe there needs to be someone at the Department focused solely on student mental health.”
  • “We also appreciate the funding for MTSS and providing access to menstrual products and requiring schools to have access to opioid antagonists.”
  • “Thank you for all of the different provisions you’ve put in this bill that really help our children be able to do well in school by addressing their mental health.”

Cat Briggs, School bus driver for Independent School District 196

  • “Thank you for extending unemployment insurance so that it covers school workers like me in the summer. This is a small change that will make a huge difference in our lives.”
  • “We’re employees that get a lot of lip service. We were called essential when it meant risking our lives and the health of our families, but we are not always treated like we are essential. Actions speak louder than words. The action that you are taking to give us access to the same safety net that other Minnesotans take for granted shows that you care about us. For new employees and single moms, unemployment compensation will mean a little financial security as they look for summer work or wait for summer school to start.”
  • “For me it will mean being able to drive to my son’s place in Kenyon to help with my new grandchildren and not to worry about affording the gas.”
  • “Children need consistency in their lives and what better way to show consistency than to have the same caring adults year to year. Unemployment compensation will help to stabilize the workforce and ensure that we can focus on doing the jobs we love to the best of our ability.” 

Jessica Webster, Staff Attorney with Legal Aid-Minnesota in the Disability Law Center 

  • “Legal Aid represents students experiencing poverty and material hardships statewide.” 
  • “First thank you for including the ban on K-3 dismissals and recess detention. Second, thank you for including the Governor’s ban on seclusion for children, birth to pre-K. However we still strongly and respectfully request that this ban on seclusion be expanded to more of our youngest learners.”
  • “The Senate Education bill bans seclusion to 3rd grade, which is supported by MDE. Seclusion is the practice of putting a child alone in a padded room, often while they scream in terror and frustration, or fight with all of their little bodies’ energy to get out. In 2023 most Minnesotans have probably heard that isolation and solitary confinement are harmful to the mental and physical health of children and adults. Most Minnesotans probably don’t know that we still allow schools to seclude young children.”
  • Cites a case of an anonymous child, currently represented by Legal Aid, that experienced “35 days of seclusion this year.”  
  • “Undoubtedly some schools are still using this tool as discipline. In all ways Legal Aid wishes the State would call for an emergency moratorium on seclusion. However, Legal Aid and our advocacy partners are engaged in ongoing conversations with schools and other stakeholders. We do believe we’ve found common ground for a practicable phase-out of Case 3 seclusions by Dec. 31, 2024, with the directive to a statewide working group to begin a broader phaseout of this practice. We’re asking, respectfully, the House today to consider amending the language to reflect this stakeholder agreement to ban this practice more urgently and to address the state to make a plan.” 

Maren Christenson Hofer, Parent of a child with a disability, Executive Director of Multicultural Autism Action Network, served on the Minnesota Restricted Procedures Work Group since 2019 but not speaking on behalf of the work group 

  •   “I’m here to say thank you for your commitment to literacy, leadership on non-exclusionary discipline including recess, increasing teachers of colors, and including the Governor’s language regarding seclusion in House File 2497.” 
  • “We’re pleased to see you taking those steps to eliminate traumatizing practices on our youngest learners, but I too am here to respectfully ask you to expand the ban on seclusion to 3rd grade and bring the House bill in alignment with the Senate’s current language.”
  • “The Restrictive Procedures [Working] Group was created in 2012 with a mandate to submit a report to the legislature on district progress in reducing the use of seclusion and how to further reduce these procedures to eliminate seclusion, and that was done a decade ago that we put that goal in place, but we are not there yet.” 
  • Cites specific data points related to seclusion: “Just to give you a picture of where we are today, during the 2021-2022 school year there was 4593 seclusions in Minnesota, 716 individual students secluded, 73% of them were ten years old or younger, 17% of them identified as Black or African-American while those students make up only about 12% of the student population. 100% of the students secluded are students with disabilities.”
  • “It just doesn’t make sense to talk about prioritizing mental health while we’re still allowing these traumatizing practices to happen in schools. We respectfully ask that you expand the language in the House omnibus bill to match that in the Senate, prohibit the use of seclusion for students through grade 3, and put an end-date for putting this practice to an end in the State of Minnesota.”

Jonah Martinez, President of People for PSEO

  • Says PSEO allowed him to graduate virtually debt-free
  • “The fact is that PSEO saves state government an estimated $15 million dollars in education expenditures compared to other programs and saves families nearly $60 million dollars per year in tuition costs. MDE data also suggests that PSEO is highly effective at reducing educational disparities amongst students of color.”
  • “We, at People for PSEO, believe there is room for significant improvement within the program. Barriers to entry remain high for students who stand to benefit the most from dual enrollment. Students wishing to participate in PSEO lose access to free transportation to and from school in addition to free lunch benefits. We do not believe that PSEO should be inaccessible to students from low-income backgrounds. Furthermore, just 42% of school districts across Minnesota are in compliance with state law that requires them to inform students about the existence of the program which we personally find unacceptable. Ultimately thousands of students receive inadequate information about the education options that are available to them and subsequently lose out on vital opportunities.” 
  • “Students that wish to do PSEO shouldn’t be facing any barriers if they want to do it. That’s why People for PSEO hopes to work with this committee going forward to establish two main goals: to increase equity in educational attainment and to ensure that school districts comply with state law. We look forward to maintaining Minnesota’s place as a leader within education so long as we benefit students from all backgrounds.” 

Katherine Kersten, Senior Policy Fellow at the Center for the American Experiment 

  • “I’m here to address this bill’s provision regarding ethnic studies which will be entrenched throughout our K-12 system if the bill becomes law. Ethnic studies supporters generally portray it as an opportunity for students to see themselves in the curriculum. Do not be misled. The bill’s text and the agenda of the organizations promoting it tell a different story. Education for Liberation-Minnesota, the parent organization of the Minnesota Ethnic Studies Coalition, has denounced Minnesota schools current curriculum as “shaped to maintain the existing economic, political, and social order privileging whites. Ed-Lib seeks to transform that order by delegitimizing its fundamental institutions and instructing students to resist them.” The organization calls for abolition, not reform of the police, and has tweeted in support of ethnic students that defunding the police means abolishing the social order and building a new society.”
  • Uses the example of Saint Paul’s recently created ethnic studies graduation requirement, and connects it to issues within SPPS. “Saint Paul parents already lament growing disrespect for teachers and dangerous hallways. What will happen as ethnic studies further delegitimizes authority there.”
  • “HF2497 will embed the corrosive critical social justice ideology behind ethnic studies in our schools in many intersecting ways.”
  • “If this illiberal, un-Minnesotan legislation becomes law, students and teachers will flood out of our public schools, which will overtime be transformed beyond recognition. I urge you to find the moral courage to stop that from happening.”

Deb Henton, Minnesota Association of School Administrators

  • “On behalf of the members of our organization, I would like to express our appreciation for the inclusion of the following in the omnibus bill: the ability for school districts to renew existing operating levies in accordance with the provisions of the bill; linking future formula increases to inflation; increases to career and technical education; Grow Your Own grants; funding for English learners; American Indian Education; transportation sparsity; and reductions to the Special Education and English Learner cross-subsidies; recognizing the need for compensatory education to be maintained at Fiscal Year 2024 levels; the READ Act and its potential to improve reading instruction for all students; funding for paraprofessional training; allowing social workers to be eligible for medical reimbursement; and the permanency of the voluntary pre-K slots and the future increases.”
  • “We hope there can be more discussion regarding the formula allowance. We are especially concerned about 2% increase for the second year of the biennium. All school districts will encounter increased costs for everything from supplies to transportation to labor costs to unemployment insurance costs. We know that 2% will be inadequate to fund all the needs our school districts will face.”
  • “We also hope that we might have continued discussion on changing the terms and conditions of employment. Specifically we believe that it should be left up to elected school boards to decide whether or not they want to bargain class-size. Our fear is if this is mandated, it will impede local bargaining efforts, potentially causing prolonged contract negotiations. Finally, removing pathways to teacher licensure may exacerbate the teacher shortage in a time when we are already struggling to fill positions.”

Kim Lewis, Minnesota School Boards Association

  • Testifying on behalf of all 333 school boards from across the State of Minnesota
  • “We sincerely appreciate you providing resources to schools and students which align with what we strive to do each and every day.”
  • “As you know our member voices shared their highest priorities: money in the formula and funds for special education. We appreciate that you have allocated funds in these areas and our members were hoping for a little bit more given the historic surplus and the significant needs our districts are experiencing.”
  • “We also sincerely appreciate you including inflation on the per pupil formula, another top priority of our organization. There are several policy and financial provisions that we support. We thank you for allowing school boards to renew an existing referendum.”
  • “Increasing teachers of color in our schools and the special education pipeline programs, we appreciate the short-call substitute teacher pilot program, and eliminating the teacher competency exams. Increasing access and aid for career and technical computer science education, establishing the online instruction act, full-service community schools and making VPK available to more four-year olds.”
  • “We were disappointed to see that there is no appropriation for hourly workers’ summer unemployment. As you’ve heard us say once or twice before, we value local control and our inherent managerial rights. Within this bill there are a couple of provisions that would diminish the authority of our administration and the inherent managerial rights of our school boards. These items include non-exclusionary discipline and negotiating expanded items in terms and conditions of employment such as class size, student testing, student-personnel rations, and e-learning days.”
  • “We believe our school boards and administration understand the needs and challenges facing students and families, and we believe as elected officials school boards have the local decision-making authority and the flexibility to do what’s best for their constituents in communities.” 

Tina Burkholder, Director of Business Services at Monticello Public Schools and the Legislative Committee Chair for the Minnesota Association of School Business Officials

  • “I especially want to thank you for the inclusion of the increases on the general education formula allowance and tying it to inflation, the increases to special education cross-subsidy, the EL cross-subsidy, and the referendum renewal authority for school boards.”
  • “In previous testimony I mentioned what a 4% and 2% for fiscal years 24 and 25 means to the Monticello School District. We have a close to break-even budget for FY24, but we start to deficit spend by $1.4 million in Fiscal Years 2025, which is 2.6% of a $53 million budget. The increases to the Special Education Cross-Subsidy helps bridge the budget gap to sustain us in our five-year forecast. This doesn’t allow us to lower class sizes or add staff to adjust other student needs such as mental health or behaviors that our students so desperately need. An increase of 5 and 5% would allow Monticello as well as others in the State to address student needs on a greater level and increase our purchasing power back to our supply budget.”
  • “Also with previous bills, unemployment insurance was funded with direct state aid. Now it looks like school districts will have to cover the added costs within their budgets. For Monticello I estimate this to be approximately $1 million where funds would have to be reallocated instead of meeting the needs of the students. We also don’t know exactly how this would be calculated with special education cooperatives as costs are tuition billback to resident districts.”

Julia Page, Public Policy Director for The Arc Minnesota

  • “Thank you for hearing and including the proposal to ban seclusion from birth to pre-K. I’m here today to urge you to expand this protection from Kindergarten through 3rd grade, a change included in the Senate. Last year 100% of the students secluded were students with disabilities. This disproportionate use of these disabled students violates their right to non-discrimination in accessing education. Seclusion can cause physical, psychological, and emotional damage and may result in serious injury or even death. This problem is not going away despite our state’s best efforts. We continue to hear troubling stories from parents and young adults with disabilities who were subjected to seclusion. The trauma persists and the emotional impacts are long-lasting.”
  • “Schools should not be a source of trauma.”
  • “This is happening in our state everyday and we need to protect our youngest learners.” 
  • “We hope that you will match the Senate language that includes a seclusion ban up to 3rd grade and we appreciate the collaboration from other stakeholders and the department’s support for this inclusion in the Governor’s bill language.” 

Angela Jerabek, Founder and Executive Director of BARR Center 

  • “Thank you so much for the proposed bill to provide services to 18 more schools and impact over 30,000 students and over 1500 educators. I developed “Building Assets, Reducing Risks” [BARR] when I was a counselor right here in the Twin Cities. Students not thriving I knew was not a reflection of my colleagues. Educators are incredibly talented. I also knew it wasn’t about the students. Our students are incredibly gifted. I knew the problem was the system and so the system we need to redesign focused on relationships, data, and we have to focus on the strengths of the students. So as much as it worked for the school I was in, I also knew I needed to do research because I am not going to have any educator do something without evidence. So we have spent 20 years doing the most rigorous research that can be done and they have found 20 statistically significant impacts for students and for staff.”
  • “Students’ math and reading scores go up. Graduation rates go up. Chronic absenteeism goes down. Risk behaviors go down. Because the staff are more effective, they’re more satisfied, they’re able to see their students’ needs and are able to respond. We are so excited about this opportunity.”
  • “This is going to have 18 schools work together as a network and be able to provide information right back to you to say how the students and staff are doing.” 
  • “I want to thank you for helping Minnesota lead the way to have evidence be how we treat our educators and to make sure that students and staff are thriving.” 

Roger Aronson, Minnesota Elementary School Principals Association and the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals 

  • The committee’s heard both in writing and in testimony, from both of those groups [MESPA and MASSP] regarding the discipline provisions that are included in the policy provisions here. The elementary principals association strongly believes that a total ban on suspensions and dismissals would prohibit schools from sending highly dysregulated students home. We believe this poses a safety threat in our schools. We continue to believe that there’s a middle ground on this issue and that we should be able to suspend a student who poses a safety threat and we hope to work on that issue as we continue through the system. Similarly the requirement of non-exclusionary discipline in every case, the secondary schools principals believe goes too far.”
  • “Cases of significant harassment, racism, drug possession still require a suspension. Again we are hopeful that there’s a middle ground on these topics as we continue to work through the Conference Committee process to try to resolve these issues and our students.”
  • “We join with the other educational groups that have testified regarding the financial provisions in here. The elementary principals are particularly interested in the READ Act and Rep. Edelson’s work on that and we deeply appreciate her involvement of our folks in those discussions.”

Brad Lundell, Schools for Equity in Education

  • “The increase in the general education formula, measures to lower the special education and English learner cross-subsidies, the commitment to improving literacy with the READ Act, and improvement to other revenue streams like transportation sparsity and voluntary pre-kindergarten programs are greatly appreciated.”
  • “But even with this historic level of investment, the absence of progress on the property tax equalization issue as it pertains to education levies is a bit of a disappointment.”
    • Calls it a quibble, instead of a complaint
  • “Given the level of state resources available this year, it is my hope that either the education or property tax relief target would have been large enough to accommodate both the financial needs of school districts and also address the inequities that result from disparities in property tax wealth.”
    • Thanks Chair Youakim for supporting this initiative. 

Triasia Givens, Mental health practitioner and a clinical trainee school-based therapist with Minneapolis Public Schools 

  • Three of her four children are on the spectrum, two have sickle-cell disease
  • “I’m here today to ask you to save our children’s lives. One to fully-fund special education and ELL services and thank you for the funding you have allocated so far, but I hope also to fully fund the request for the Increasing Teacher of Color Act.”
  • “We need to take aggressive action to diversify our teaching force in Minnesota, which only has 6% of teachers of color.”
  • “And number three, do not include the changes to tier 2 licensure in this bill. This will deeply impact our ability to recruit and retain educators of color.” 

Rich Heller 

  • Cites House File 1269, articles 2.13, and language that is stated to change
  • Speaker is difficult to hear while testifying. 

Karen Velez Barron, Director of Finance and Operation for Latino Lead

  • “At Latino Lead our Education Action Team represents parents, teachers, educators, business, and diverse voices that strongly support an increase of ELL funding.” 
  • Thanks Rep. Her. “We are encouraged by her support of the Language Learners. We worked with Rep. Her to add some minor accountability measures that were not included in this bill and we are very disappointed on that. They were insignificant measures on accountability but we viewed them as progress, because this could help us to continue building the trust in our community and also the hope.”
  • “We are disillusioned that you keep funding education without measures of accountability. Funding is important but accountability is also important. We keep funding education and statistics don’t change. We continue to have the largest education disparities in the country.”
  • “We are also un full support of the funding but also need the funding of best practices in our education system. We need to improve our current assessment tools and minor reports on how ELL students reach proficiency levels. That said, I highly encourage the committee and every single one of you guys to support strong measures of accountability and to eliminate lost-standing disparities in the State of Minnesota.” 

Jennifer Rosato, Director of the National Center for Computer Science Education at the College of St. Scholastica, represents CS for All-Minnesota

  • “I greatly appreciate that the House has shown support for computer science education by including it in the omnibus bill. It’s clear that K-12 education is a priority for Minnesota and that there are many structural and funding challenges this bill seeks to improve.”
  • “Today I want to provide additional context for computer science within the broader education ecosystem including concerns about literacy and equity, and to reiterate the importance of funding and the policy provisions to move Minnesota out of last place in the nation.”
  • “We know from emerging research that computer science education can support student learning beyond computing. Programming improves student’s creativity, math, and reasoning skills.”
  • “However, we don’t have equitable access to these learning opportunities in Minnesota. Only one in five of our high schools offer a cs-course. If we are to move from last place to 49, just one place higher, we would need to provide support to an additional 55 districts at an approximate cost of roughly $5.5 million. That’s just one place higher.” 
  • “While I am very appreciative of the annual funding of half-a-million-dollars, we will not move out of last place with this amount. Again thank you for your demonstrated support of computer science education. As you discuss the bill and negotiate with the Senate I urge you to look for additional resources to support districts and teachers to expand computer science education so that all students in our state have access to high-quality learning opportunities in this vital discipline.”

Henry Boucha, Former NHL player and Olympian

  • Introduced himself by sharing Ojibwe names (spelling not provided) and the meanings of those names 
  • Speaker is difficult to hear while testifying. 

Laura Mogelson, Minnesota Association of Colleges of Teacher Education

  • “We’ve been hearing about the impending teacher shortage for many years now. It’s happening. We have teacher vacancies that go unfilled. We are resorting to having people serve our most vulnerable children who are under-prepared. We have an abysmal lack of diversity amongst our teachers. And many people face real barriers in entering the field. Enrollment is down significantly in teacher preparation programs, down between 20 and 30% for some providers from 2018.”
  • We first want to thank you all for putting together a bold and ambitious bill that makes specific serious investments for the children of Minnesota. I want to highlight some specific provisions that we are supportive of in your omnibus bill.” 
  • Names several provisions including increasing the Grow Your Own funds, changes to licensure exam requirements, and creating grant programs to develop a pipeline of Tier 3 and Tier 4 special education teachers.
  • “There is one item that we’re concerned about that was not included in the DE. That is paid student teaching. Removing the barrier of unpaid student teaching will help us solve the teacher shortage while also opening the teacher profession to a more diverse candidate pool. So we urge you to consider that as you go into Conference Committee and negotiate.”

Nate Christen, member of the Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs and a teacher at PYC Arts and Tech High School

  • Introduces the Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs
  • “On behalf of all MAAP members we extend our thanks on the inclusion of a $50,000 grant to the MAAP Stars Program. The funding will be used to help students with limited financial need access this powerful program dedicated to the professional, academic, and social development of students in alternative settings.”
  • “Additionally thank you for including Area Learning Center Transportation aid which will allow more students, especially in rural areas, to have transportation to school.”
  • “Finally we appreciate the significant increase in general education formula spending tied to inflation that will provide investment in our students.”
  • “As you continue to work on the biennial budget, we ask that you consider reinstating extended time revenue to 1.5 average daily membership to fund school districts, charter schools, and other educational programs for at-risk students outside the traditional school year schedule. Our students often need more time and attention than students in traditional schooling and, as a result, we have additional funding needs.” 

Jose Perez, Bridgemakers 

  • Introduces Bridgemakers and himself to the committee
  • “Bridgemakers is a part of a 19-member coalition that have deep concerns about the provisions closing the teacher experience pathways into Tier 2 and Tier 3 teaching. We believe it will shrink the pipeline of teachers able to reach our struggling students.”
  • Says he was a part of a delegation this week, from Ramsey County, that visited a school in DC working with justice-involved youth that is working to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. 
  • “It became clear that the school’s key success factor cannot be taught in a teacher’s preparation program. Most of the outstanding educators of that school would not be able to be teaching in Minnesota beyond a Tier 1 license if this bill was approved, because they were mostly -of color, and most of them had their own system involvement experience and they didn’t graduate with a traditional preparation program. For them, and for hundreds of Minnesota teachers, job one has to be turning around the lives of our traumatized, underserved youth. Yet this bill would make it much harder to recruit and keep many extraordinary experienced educators equipped to do that.”
  • “This provision would hurt the teacher pipeline serving students with special needs like myself, those graduating from alternative programs like myself, and students of color like myself who need life-changing role models who can best relate to us.”
  • Says the Coalition has been requesting to meet with legislators about their concerns

James Grathwol, Saint Paul Public Schools 

  • “As we move into conference committee, there will be a couple of things we’d like to continue to talk with you about. We’re not sure if we can run our summer school program with the unemployment insurance. We use our paras in our summer school program. We’re trying to figure out a business model. If they all choose to go on unemployment, we’re going to be in trouble. So we’re going to talk to you about that.  
  • Says that SPPS would also like to talk about funding Level 4 program funding 

Joey Cienian, Minnesota Association of Charter Schools 

  • Says that MACS “finds much to support in” the bill
  • “In reviewing the entire bill there are four areas that we would like the committee to address as they relate to charter-public schools.”
  • Area 1: extended time revenue, “Charter-public schools can only receive 25%, or $13. 81, of the state average of extended time revenue generated by traditional districts. “We request that the bill be amended to provide charter-public school students with equal access to full extended time revenue.” 
  • Area 2: computer science education advancement program. “It is important that charter-public schools be represented at the table developing the state’s strategic plan. We request that the bill be amended to add one representative from the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools to the membership of the Computer Science Education Advisory Committee.” 
  • Area 3: “We support the creation of the student support personnel aide, as many of our students would benefit from increased student support personnel being able to assist them. Our concern, however, is for small chart-public schools. The funding formula for charters will prove to be inadequate to match the intention of the legislation as it would not be enough to even hire a part-time counselor, social worker, nurse, or chemical dependency counselor for smaller charter schools.” “We request that the bill be amended to provide charter-public schools with the same baseline amount.” 
  • Area 4: “We support the important new revenue for schools to provide special education teachers time to complete due process forms and procedures. Our concern however is that it ties that revenue to the employment status of a teacher and that they have to have collective bargaining units to receive that. We request that the bill be amended to clarify that special education due process aid be provided to all Minnesota public schools’ special education teachers.” 

Haben Ghebregergish, former Saint Paul Public School student and graduate from Eagan High School, SPPS Tier 2 licensed math teacher

  • “I am here to urge you all to remove parts of this bill that will highly restrict access to the teaching profession. As it stands these parts would worsen the teacher shortage and lack of diversity in Minnesota.” 
  • Discusses teacher education and portfolio development at University of Chicago and in teacher training in Michigan. “When I moved back to Minnesota the Tier 2 licensure option allowed me to remain in the classroom. The experience that I had in Detroit, for those four years, helped me get the Tier 2 license. If these provisions had been in place when I moved back to Minnesota I would not have been able to stay in teaching.”
  • “In my experience, actual teaching experience is the most important component of teacher development.”
  • “These provisions will force countless teachers to do what I did when I got my Masters in Teaching from Hamline, teaching full-time while getting an education online on weekends. I went through this and it’s very challenging, requiring a lot of sacrifice. If the only way to have a Tier 2 license is to have a Masters degree in the content area, complete a teacher prep program, or be currently enrolled in a teaching program, we will discourage people from entering the noble profession.”
  • “Part of this bill seeks to increase the diversity of the teaching force, but these restrictions on teaching licensure will discourage teachers of color from entering the profession.” 

Shannon Peterson, Executive Director of Lakes International Language Academy 

  • Introduces Lakes International Language Academy sharing statistics about the school’s successes
  • “We as a charter, I just want to point out, are not the enemy of district schools. We support our district’s needs for transportation sparsity funding, we support the special ed cross-subsidy, neither of these will have a direct impact on our budget but they’re good for Minnesota children. We’re in this together.” 
  • “Our school, and many mature charter schools, are losing ground in our ability to hire and retain teachers due to the funding discrepancies between public districts and public charters. LILA’s annual revenue per pupil is about $2000 less per pupil than our local district, or about $50,000 per classroom. Yet we must hire teachers and others from the same candidate pool as those much-better funded districts.” 
  • Says she has two requests. “One, please include public charters, giving us the same types of revenues at the same rates as districts.” “Second, please reconsider the block from the Tier 2 to Tier 3 pathway to teacher licensure.” 

Adriana Cerrillo, MPS Board Member with translation by Molly Carina Dengler, MPS parent 

  • Thanks the Chair for fully-funding ELL Education
  • “At the beginning of the legislative session you said you would address the underfunding of EL Services and you did. But we want it now, not in 2027.”
  • “You also said that you would link the general education formula to inflation and, thank you,  you did. But we want it now, not in 2027.”
  • “These two provisions are incredibly important to our students, families, staff, Minnesota, and our country. The certainty that this will give our schools in terms of staffing and programming cannot be underestimated. I hear this from parents every day and know this as a parent and grandmother myself. We all want an education that meets our children’s needs.”
  • “The current EL formula only funds ⅓ of district’s costs statewide. Closing this gap will ensure that our students have what they need to make academic progress.”
  • “Tying the formula to inflation will give schools the certainty of not a blank check because they’ll know what will come year-after-year.”

Mary Anne Quiroz, Director of Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts – testimony read by Adrianna from Worthington, MN, “reading the letter of a parent who couldn’t be here today.”

  • Thanks Rep. Sencer-Mura for authoring ethnic studies legislation and the Chair for her support of ethnic studies legislation 
  • “As an immigrant mother and grandmother to mixed children, ethnic studies is imperative to the academic growth of all young scholars as well as for grounding one’s self-identity in place in our society. I want my children, grandchildren, as well as young scholars to know their ancestors contributed greatly to building this country, that their histories and stories are seen and acknowledged amongst their peers. In turn they learn about the stories of others who came before them.” 
  • “I do not believe that our young scholars need to wait until they attend a college or university to receive ethnic studies-related courses. Ethnic studies must be accessible at a young age in our education system.”

Matt Shaver, Teacher and Policy Director at Ed Allies 

  • “We strongly support the proposed investments in the general education formula as well as progress towards eliminating the special education and English learner cross-subsidies.”
  • “We are incredibly grateful to see the curtailing of dismissals for kindergarten through 3rd grade, and leaving that tool in the toolbox only in the case of an ongoing serious safety threat.”
  • Encouraging committee members to expand prohibition of seclusion to 3rd grade
  • “We also support many of the proposals in the READ Act to take comprehensive action on improving literacy instruction and aligning training, curriculum, and ongoing support at the site, district, and state level with research on how children best learn to read.”
  • “In order for proposals to reach their potential we must move beyond encouraging language in several areas of the READ Act towards requirements. Some things are too important to wither on the local control vine and what could be more critical to the success of children than being taught to read.”
  • Says that their licensure coalition “supports much of PELSB’s legislative agenda that is represented in the bill.” 
  • Says they have serious concerns that the bill takes steps forward, steps backwards
  • “Our coalition stands ready to find a path forward on licensure that we can all support.”

Keem Anderson, Ignite Afterschool and Ignite Afterschool Network 

  • Thanks Rep. Lee and Senator Oumou Verbeten for authoring their bill
  • Thanks Chairs for their commitment for their “$25 million commitment in after school by funding the afterschool community learning grants bill.”
  • “As you know the ACLG bill provides crucial funding for high-quality and summer programs for young people across Minnesota. These programs offer safe spaces for young people to learn and grow outside of the traditional school day while also providing academic support, mentorship opportunities, and opportunities for personal and social development.”
  • “We know that quality afterschool programming is key to helping young people succeed academically, socially, and emotionally. The research shows that students who participate in afterschool programs have better attendance, higher grades, and fewer behavior problems than those who do not. Further afterschool programs provide a lifeline for working families, providing a safe and supportive environment for young people during the critical hours when parents and guardians are still at work.”
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