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Seeking to aid post-COVID catch-up, House panel approves summer school funding bill

HF1064 would appropriate $104.5 million for summer school funding. House Photography file photo
HF1064 would appropriate $104.5 million for summer school funding. House Photography file photo

It’s not quite spring yet, but school districts are already planning for their summer school programming to help mitigate students’ pandemic-related learning loss. Given that, lawmakers are moving quickly on legislation to provide more stability in that planning.

Sponsored by Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Mpls), HF1064, as amended, would appropriate $104.5 million for summer school funding.

“This is a preschool-to-career summer learning package that needs to move now,” Davnie said. “Schools need certainty for budgetary projections to plan. Families need to know what opportunities will be available to their children to learn and grow this summer. Some of these elements we have introduced as far back as last July … it’s time to act.”

The bill was approved 9-7, along party lines, by the House Education Finance Committee Tuesday. It now heads to the House Ways and Means Committee, where it is on the agenda for Wednesday. The companion, SF973, awaits action by the Senate Education Finance and Policy Committee. Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes) is the sponsor.

The bill reflects Gov. Tim Walz’s 2021 summer learning plan. In addition to increased afterschool and summer programming, key elements of the plan include expanding access to quality child care, additional school-linked mental health services and helping schools develop community partnerships for added tutoring services and hands-on learning opportunities. 

The largest investment would support districts that have experienced pandemic-related enrollment loss by increasing the declining enrollment formula replacement percentage from 28% to 48.5% for fiscal year 2021 only. The temporary formula increase would have an aid entitlement cost of $29 million.

Additionally, the bill includes a $20 million appropriation in fiscal year 2021 to provide grants to low-income and underserved children to enroll in a three- or four-star-rated private preschool, public preschool or public prekindergarten in-person learning program.

Rep. Ron Kresha (R-Little Falls) unsuccessfully offered a delete-all amendment described as an alternative summer learning plan. It would have also made a number of one-time appropriations, including $75 million for summer programming and student supports.

Rather than distributing the funds through grants to districts and charters, the money would be disbursed as per-pupil aid based on fall 2020 enrollment.

“We know that COVID has effected every single kid, every county, every teacher, every school district across Minnesota,” Kresha said. “We’re just trying to recognize that every school district needs the flexibility, they need the dollars, and we need to get that to them as best we can so that they can manage the crisis at their own level.”

The bill also would provide appropriations for grants in fiscal year 2021 to support the following areas:

  • $10 million for field trips and hands-on learning opportunities;
  • $10 million to increase funding for adult basic education programming;
  • $6 million for summer programming for high school graduates at public postsecondary institutions;
  • $6 million to expand school-linked mental health grants;
  • $5 million for summer programming in neighborhoods and apartment buildings;
  • $5 million for summer academic mentoring or tutoring for students;
  • $5 million for afterschool community learning programs;
  • $3.25 million for expanding access to tutoring and other wraparound services for children in kindergarten through grade 12;
  • $3 million for additional math corps activities;
  • $2 million for additional reading corps activities;
  • $2 million for expedited grants for full-service community schools; and
  • $1 million to expand mental health and well-being supports for youth attending summer learning programs.

The bill specifies that if any additional COVID-19 related federal funds become available they should be used to replace state aid, and that the Department of Education should report to the Legislature on how the federal funds were used. 

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