There’s just a little more than two months left in the 2022 legislative session, and there’s still a lot of good work left for us to get done. Here’s a quick update on the latest developments at the Legislature and what I’m working on.
Protecting student privacy and preventing inequities
Check today’s Star Tribune for an op-ed I penned about my bill to protect student privacy at school. Here’s an excerpt that describes the problem my legislation seeks to fix:
“An investigation by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that policies monitoring online student behavior were clearly resulting in unnecessary expulsion of minority students. One report assessed the problem with algorithm-based surveillance software designed by people who "implicitly associate African Americans with aggression, criminality, violence and danger," finding that the use of intense surveillance methods harms students' interests, delegitimizes the educational process, perpetuates racial inequalities, weakens trust in government institutions and processes, and skews minorities' perceptions of their standing in our society.
“Students of color already are disciplined at significantly higher rates than peers, which has lifelong consequences and plays into the school-to-prison pipeline and Minnesota's appalling opportunity gap.
“Furthermore, studies into the efficacy of student surveillance tools have demonstrated that they break down trust relationships with schools. Experts, such as those at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, have expressed concern that such tools will ultimately discourage adolescents from reaching out for help — in particular Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) and LGBTQ communities, who are far more likely to seek help online.”
My bill, the Student Data Privacy Act, would increase protections for students from disproportionate disciplinary actions against students of color and neurodivergent students stemming from implicit biases embedded in technology.
Standing in solidarity with Ukraine
In response to the Russian military invasion of Ukraine, a bipartisan coalition of legislators introduced legislation to divest Minnesota’s state pension fund from Russia and codify Governor Walz’s Executive Order barring Minnesota from contracting with Russian companies into law. I am proud to support this legislation and stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the estimated worth of Minnesota's state pension fund investments in Russia was approximately $53 million. Once in committee, the legislation will be amended to also sanction Belarus for its complicity in the Russian invasion. We must do all we can at the state level to stand up for democracy and peace.
In addition, I am working with my immigration attorney colleagues to identify other ways we can support state efforts to welcome Ukrainian refugees to our state.
Providing drought relief for farmers
Yesterday, the House approved a package of legislation that will help livestock farmers, specialty crop producers, and communities harmed by 2021’s historic drought. The funding is targeted to small operations unable to access federal crop insurance, and includes measures ensuring equity in the grant application process. Additionally, the legislation helps communities recover from the drought by providing grants to local and tribal governments to replace trees and seedlings killed during the drought and to improve water management. With climate change causing more extreme weather events like drought, we need to help the people who are being impacted most, and that includes farmers. Click here for coverage from MPR.
Update on my legislation to end period poverty
We had a great bill presentation of the Period Equity bill in Education Finance on Wednesday, March 9th. I want to extend my thanks and gratitude to the student advocates whose personal stories, data-backed arguments, and clear passion for this issue are leading the way in this legislative effort. The bill also received a hearing this week in the Senate, with Sen. Steve Cwodzinski of Eden Prairie leading the effort in the other chamber. Watch KARE11’s coverage of the hearing here.
Tying public school funding to inflation
I am the proud author of legislation that will ensure schools are able to plan ahead without worrying that each dollar on the per-pupil formula will go less far with each passing year. With an inflation adjustment in the funding formula, districts would be able to focus on their core mission of education with less worry about financial uncertainties. Did you know that per-pupil funding would be $798 higher in 2023 if state assistance had kept pace with inflation since 2003? It’s clear our state needs to do more to provide every child with a high-quality education, and my bill will help build the brighter future Minnesota students and families deserve.
Guardianship for at-risk youth
This bill will address a misalignment between state and federal law that harms at-risk juveniles who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected and brought into this country for, among other reasons, sex or labor trafficking. These youth can be eligible for protection called Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Structured to build on the successes and challenges of the 13 other states that have passed similar legislation to match their state law with federal law, this bill creates a guardianship for eligible at-risk youth through the age of 21, thereby ensuring full access to the requisite state court order for all Special Immigrant Juvenile Status cases. This ensures that Minnesota is compliant with federal law on the age cut-off for eligibility. I’m pleased to report that in addition to a recent public hearing in the House, the Senate is planning a hearing for this Tuesday!
House voting Monday on my Hennepin County Education Support Services data bill
I am excited to present my first standalone bill on the House Floor this coming Monday, March 14th. This bill will ensure that Hennepin County, and other future counties that develop similar programs, will be able to classify as private sensitive Education Support Services data. This data is collected to address the news of the whole child in order to ensure their academic success. I’m thrilled that my first opportunity to present a bill on the House Floor will relate to addressing the opportunity gap.
Stay in touch
If you have questions, ideas, or feedback that you’d like to share, please don’t hesitate to reach out. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (651) 296-4331.