ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The Minnesota House on Wednesday approved a DFL-backed education package that includes more than $1 billion in new money for schools next year.
The 250-page bill includes supplemental money to the two-year budget approved last year by the legislature. This year, lawmakers are wrangling over how to spend a surplus exceeding $9 billion.
“We can step up in our responsibility as Minnesotans, invest in the students of today and the future of Minnesota tomorrow,” said Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis.
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The proposal, which faces a hurdle in the GOP-controlled Senate, creates a student support aid program to hire school counselors and psychologists up to 1,100 positions statewide. Students in grades K-12 would get mental health screenings in school district that use tap into the program.
Overall, there’s $475 million in mental health support funding, according to a summary from House research staff.
There are retention bonuses for teachers who return for their second, third and fourth years of employment, and it requires personal finance and civics classes before graduating from high school, among other provisions. Gov. Tim Walz in his education package sought a literacy plan aiming at increasing students’ reading levels with screenings twice per school year, which also made it into the DFL proposal.
Under the legislation, Indigenous People’s Day would replace Columbus Day in schools and ethnics studies would be included in curriculum, which sparked criticism from Republicans.
The GOP lead on the education finance committee also denounced the package for giving twice as much money to Minneapolis schools than Greater Minnesota.
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“Democrats are pushing massive new mandates, controversial curriculum, and prioritizing Minneapolis over the rest of the state,” Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, said. “This bill won’t do anything to address the stagnant test scores and devastating learning loss from Democrat school shutdowns of the past two years.”
The DFL-controlled House plan of more than $1 billion dwarfs a similar bill from Senate Republicans, which includes $30 million to focus mostly on boosting literacy. Lawmakers will have to bridge the gap between their proposals before session wraps in a few weeks.
In the House bill, there is also more money invested in a program aimed at boosting teachers of color and it would fund free tampons and pads in middle and high schools, a push by a Hopkins high school student.
Separate proposal would make hourly school workers eligible for unemployment insurance
On Monday night, the House approved a legislation that would pay back federal debts owed on the unemployment trust fund and replenish it to solvency, movement on an issue that had been at a standstill amid an impasse between House Democrats and Senate Republicans.
Democrats added a provision to that bill that would make hourly school workers — bus drivers, educational support staff, food service employees — eligible for unemployment insurance. Current law excludes them from getting jobless benefits in between school years.
“Hourly employees like myself are at the mercy of the school calendar. We think it’s only fair that school workers are eligible too,” said Bill Schwandt, special education paraprofessional in Bloomington, who spoke at a news conference about the proposal Wednesday morning.
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DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman is pushing the Senate Republicans to act and approve the change, but it will likely face resistance. Hortman and GOP Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller are still in negotiations about an unemployment insurance trust fund and frontline worker bonus deal.
Source : https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2022/04/27/mn-house-education-funding/