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Education conference committee gets down to business of bridging bill differences

Agreements on several provisions are in the House and Senate omnibus education finance and policy bills.

So are clear differences on policy goals and ways to achieve those.

The conference committee working to reach agreement received a side-by-side walkthrough of both versions of HF4300 Tuesday.

Among the variances, the House plan, sponsored by Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Mpls) would require school districts’ World’s Best Workforce plans to include an ethnic studies curriculum, and an anti-racist and culturally sustaining curriculum. The Senate version, sponsored by Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes), would suspend provisions of the program for five years beginning with the 2023-24 school year.

The World's Best Workforce was developed in 2013 to ensure school districts and charter schools in Minnesota enhance student achievement through teaching and learning supports.

Major provisions in the House bill would:

  • create a voluntary prekindergarten program for eligible 4-year-olds from low-income families and kids deemed vulnerable;
  • change many early education programs, require early childhood developmental screening, and early childhood family education;
  • increase cross-subsidy reduction aid for English language learner programs and special education;
  • modify academic standards requirements, include compulsory instruction in ethnic studies;
  • prioritize alternative student discipline provisions;
  • require at least one hour of programming to mark Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which would replace Columbus Day as a state holiday;
  • institute new policies to empower American Indian students; and
  • amend the student bullying statute requiring school boards to address malicious and sadistic conduct.

Major provisions in the Senate bill would:

  • require a school board to adopt a comprehensive plan to support and improve teaching and learning aligned with the goal having 90% of third-grade students achieve grade-level reading proficiency, for the time that the World’s Best Workforce provisions are suspended;
  • appropriate $30 million for the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling program; and
  • require a charter school to adopt a policy, plan, budget, and process to review curriculum, instruction, and student achievement that is aligned with the goal of having 90% of third grade students achieve grade-level reading proficiency from the 2023-24 school year through the end of the 2028-29. 

[MORE: View the spreadsheet and bill comparison summary]

A few of the similar provisions in the House and Senate bills include:

  • providing access to menstrual products for students;
  • adding certified deaf interpreter certification for American Sign Language/English interpreters;
  • working to identify teacher shortage areas;
  • surveying the state's school districts and teacher preparation programs; and
  • including data on hiring in the teacher supply and demand report.

A next meeting has not been scheduled, but conferees could resume work Wednesday.

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