Policies to ensure greater opportunities for kids in Minnesota were signed into law last week, though the unique circumstances leave their status a bit uncertain. Despite an ongoing conflict between the governor and state legislators, EdAllies and Educators for Excellence-Minnesota are hopeful that proposals they helped advance to increase the diversity of the educator workforce, modernize teacher licensure and retention policies, and expand targeted early learning scholarships will remain the law of the land.
Unprecedented Political Conflict
After failing to get a number of budget bills over the finish line during the regular session, Minnesota’s Democratic Farm and Labor (DFL) Governor Mark Dayton and Republican-led Senate and House leaders negotiated agreements as they headed into a special session. However, despite the governor’s decision to ultimately sign the budget bills, the wrangling was not over. As EdAllies Executive Director Daniel Sellers explains, the governor asked to “re-open and re-negotiate” the previously agreed-upon changes to the state’s teacher licensure system, which has long been considered “broken” by educators, advocates, and policymakers alike. To force legislators back to the negotiating table on this issue and others, the governor line-item vetoed the Legislature’s appropriations.
After the governor’s line-item veto of funding to run the House and Senate the next two years, the GOP-controlled Legislature took steps towards suing the state executive over what they believe was an unconstitutional move. What happens next is unclear, so advocates are remaining watchful and looking ahead to implementation of the new policies.
Policies at Stake
So what did Minnesota advocates help accomplish this year? E4E-MN Executive Director Madaline Edison shared highlights from the education omnibus bill, House File 2. That incudes:
- Licensure reform. As EdAllies’s Josh Crosson outlined, the overhaul of the state’s broken system will help “make licensure more transparent, clarify and, in many ways, raise standards, and create pathways for experienced educators into our classrooms.”
- Alternative teacher preparation and grow-your-own programs. The state will provide funding for alternative teacher prep programs and expand efforts to recruit non-licensed staff to become licensed teachers. Read more from a rural Career & Technical Education Coordinator here.
- Teacher diversity. The state will increase funding, rigor, and transparency for an effort for prep programs to diversify their teacher candidate pools. Additionally, the state’s teacher prep program report cards will now be disaggregated by race, a big priority for E4E teachers.
- Teacher retention. The state will no longer require a default of seniority-based layoffs, and will instead empower local districts and union to negotiate their own criteria for when layoffs occur.
- Early learning. The state will invest $20 million in targeted early learning scholarships, and $50 million for a “School Readiness Plus” program for charter and traditional public schools.
- Other wins. HF2 included a 2 percent increase in per-pupil funding, as well as improvements to implement a 2016 law to disaggregate and cross-tabulate student achievement data by ethnic community and more.
To learn more about the work that led to Minnesota’s legislative accomplishments this year, please email me about connecting with advocates at EdAllies and E4E-MN.