Skip to main content Skip to office menu Skip to footer
Capital IconMinnesota Legislature

Lawmakers hear House DFL’s proposed policy overhaul of Minnesota K-12 schools

(House Photography file photo)
(House Photography file photo)

Exactly one month ago, the Department of Education presented Gov. Tim Walz’s recommended policy changes to the state’s K-12 education system.

Now it is time for the House to speak.

The House Education Policy Committee held a walkthrough of a proposed delete-all amendment to HF1269 Tuesday. Additional hearings for member discussion, further amendments, and ultimate committee action are expected Wednesday and Friday.

Rep. Laurie Pryor (DFL-Minnetonka), the committee chair, said the bill is still a work in progress, so many adjustments are expected before the omnibus proposal is sent to its next stop, the House Education Finance Committee.

House Education Policy Committee 3/7/23

The hearing largely consisted of the nonpartisan House Research Department summarizing the amendment. Below is an article-by-article breakdown of what changes could be in store for Minnesota’s students and teachers.

Article 1 – General Education

The most notable item of interest in this small article is a vanishing act. A departmental reporting requirement for the test scores of homeschool students, which triggered howls of protest from homeschool parents at last month’s hearing, is absent from the amended bill.

Article 2 – Education Excellence

This article opens with several proposed changes to the state’s academic standards and high school graduation requirements. Namely:

  • the arts would move from a locally optional to a statewide required standard, while media arts would be added as one of the subcategories districts could offer to students;
  • mathematics standards would be revised to specify certain compulsory courses; and
  • students would have to pass a class on government and citizenship to graduate high school, starting with those who begin ninth grade in the 2024-25 school year.

Proponents of embedding ethnic studies within the state’s high school graduation requirements did not get their wish. However, strategic plans adopted by local school boards after June 30, 2024, would have to include ethnic studies curriculum that is “antiracist” and “culturally sustaining.”

The department would be granted expanded rulemaking authority, as language prohibiting the department from altering academic standards without explicit legislative authorization would be stricken from statute.

A number of changes regarding student behavior and discipline are also laid out:

  • “malicious and sadistic conduct” would be expressly prohibited in schools;
  • students in kindergarten to grade 3 could not be suspended or expelled except in extreme circumstances;
  • school employees and school resource officers could not place a place a student in “prone restraint” or physical holds that restrict breathing; and
  • denying a student their recess as a punishment would be severely curtailed.

A postsecondary school participating in the postsecondary enrollment options program could no longer require a faith statement from applicants nor base an admission decision on “race, creed, ethnicity, disability, gender, or sexual orientation or religious beliefs.”

The Online Learning Act would be repealed and replaced by the Online Instruction Act to better define requirements and expectations for digital learning.

Article 3 – American Indian Education

This article includes many changes long sought after by Indigenous Minnesotan educational advocates. Highlights include:

  • replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the school calendar;
  • embedding Indigenous education into the state’s academic standards during the next 10-year review;
  • prohibiting schools from using Indian symbols or names as mascots;
  • requiring American Indian culture and language classes in schools with sufficient numbers of Indian students as defined in the article; and
  • affirming the rights of Indigenous students to sport tribal regalia at graduation ceremonies and to “carry a medicine pouch containing loose tobacco intended as observance of traditional spiritual or cultural practices” while in school.

Article 4 – Teachers

Much movement would be seen in the laws regarding teachers. Most notably the bill would do this by:

  • allowing Tier 1 teachers to join a union;
  • exempting Tier 1, 2, and 3 teachers of world languages and culture, performing arts, and visual arts from the requirement to hold a bachelor’s degree;
  • shortening the probationary period under various circumstances;
  • instituting a short-call substitute teacher pilot program; and
  • placing class sizes, student testing, and student-to-personnel ratios under the “terms and conditions of employment” to be negotiated during collective bargaining.

Article 5 – Charter Schools

Updates to laws governing charter schools would stay largely the same. The most substantive changes are:

  • charters would have to abide by the Education for English Learners Act in the same manner as local districts; and
  • charters would have to make an enrollment preference for Minnesota residents and admission for these in-state pupils would have to be free.

Article 6 – Special Education

When it comes to special education, the bill would update departmental reporting requirements, expand parental school choice, and increase student learning options.

Article 7 – Nutrition and Libraries

As a response to the Feeding Our Future scandal, departmental oversight of the federal summer food service program would be modified. Applicants would have to prove their financial eligibility for the program via stringent documentation requirements.

Related Articles

Priority Dailies

Walz, legislative leaders announce budget targets for 2023 session
Flanked by Gov. Tim Walz and Senate President Bobby Joe Champion, House Speaker Melissa Hortman announces an agreement on budget targets, a major step in the process of crafting a two-year state budget. (Photo by Andrew VonBank) With the session’s final committee deadline exactly two weeks away, legislative leaders announced an agreement Tuesday on how much new money they plan to spend in 2023 and the f...
Gov. Walz's proposed budget largest in state history, includes $8 billion in tax cuts
Gov. Tim Walz, pictured here last year, on Tuesday unveiled his complete $65.2 billion two-year state budget proposal he says will "make Minnesota the best state in the nation for children." (House Photography file photo) Make Minnesota the best state in our country for kids to grow up. It’s a lofty goal but that was Gov. Tim Walz’ mantra Tuesday during the unveiling of his proposed budget fo...

Minnesota House on Twitter