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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Ben Bakeberg (R)

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Legislative Update 4.19.24

Friday, April 19, 2024

Friends and Neighbors, 


I hope you’re enjoying the start of spring! As we enter the final month of the 2024 Legislative Session, I wanted to update you on the Education Policy Bill. Now that we’re in the middle of omnibus bill season, we’re spending long nights on the floor engaged in debate and trying to amend commonsense proposals onto these bills.  

For example, last Thursday we deliberated the Education Policy Bill on the House Floor which unfortunately imposes additional mandates on our schools. As a member of the Education Policy Committee, our team worked diligently to propose amendments aimed at eliminating burdensome mandates to allow our school districts to flourish. Despite our efforts, we were not successful, as most amendments failed on a party-line vote. We did, however, get one adopted into the final version of the bill, which I’ll discuss later. 

The primary goal of one of my amendments, the A-3, was to restore local control to school districts concerning student discipline. Last year the DFL majority limited the ability of educators to maintain a safe learning environment by mandating non-exclusionary practices. Those mandates have created significant challenges for parents, teachers, and administrators alike. I believe that no one understands how to maintain a safe and effective learning environment better than our educators themselves, which is why I so strongly support this proposal. I encourage you to watch this portion of the debate on the House Floor here.  

The majority also rejected an amendment to the Education Policy bill that would keep the public release of state testing data (MCA’s) on September 1st.  The Department of Education requested to delay the release of this data to December 1st, eight months after students have taken the assessment.  This makes no sense; especially given the fact the Department of Education staff grew by over twenty percent last year or as they said in committee they are “staffing up”. Something doesn’t add up, and I wish that the body would’ve adopted this amendment so that parents can know how their child’s school is performing in real time instead of months later. Listen to my floor speech on the matter here.

Despite these challenges, there have been some positive developments! I was pleased to collaborate with my colleagues across the aisle on a bipartisan effort to address the issue of chronic absenteeism, which you can watch here.  This is a problem that affects not only our schools but also our broader community profoundly. This proposal was included in the Education Finance bill, and we will work to have this provision included in the final bill. 

Additionally, the A-22 Amendment to the bill was accepted, ensuring that individual MCA data can be transparently shared with families. This amendment clarifies the rights of parents and guardians to access this important information, which supports informed decisions about their children's education. Watch me discuss this here

As we continue to navigate these legislative challenges, please know that I appreciate your ongoing support and engagement as we strive to focus on what truly matters: the educational success of our students.