February 27, 2020

What’s in the Governor’s Education Bill?

By Krista Kaput

This week, legislators held a hearing on the Governor’s education policy bill (HF3186). The bill contains several policies that will help build stronger, more equitable schools in Minnesota. Unfortunately, it also contains a few provisions that would take us in the wrong directionmost notably, creating barriers to permanent licensure for teachers who are demonstrating success in the classroom. Below is a recap of some key provisions the bill and our take on how they would impact children. 

TEACHER LICENSURE 

Minnesota students should never miss out on a great teacher because of arbitrary licensure barriers. Less than two years ago, after years of bi-partisan compromise and hard work, Minnesota implemented a new tiered teacher licensure system to ensure fair, clear pathways to the classroom for teachers from diverse backgrounds. A provision in the Governor’s bill would roll back a key element of the new system by removing a pathway to permanent licensure for teachers who have demonstrated effectiveness for at least three years on a Tier 2 license. 

OUR TAKE: The new tiered licensure system provides effective teachers clear pathways to enter and stay in the classroom. It respects school leaders and seasoned educators as professionals, and considers the variety of skills, experiences, and expertise that can make a teacher great. Most importantly, it values what matters most: a teacher’s impact in the classroom. The new system is already benefiting schools, educators, and, most importantly, students: School districts across the state have been able to hire and retain hundreds of effective, diverse educators who had no path to permanent licensure under the old system. 

At a time when our state is working hard to increase teacher diversity—and when we know that 1-in-5 teachers of color and indigenous teachers are NOT entering the classroom on Tier 3 or Tier 4—we need to make straightforward pathways for them to stay rather than create barriers and push them out after demonstrating success. This ultimately harms Minnesota students who need and deserve great teachers, no matter their path to the classroom. To learn more, read the story of Tier 2 teacher Dr. N’Jai-An Patters.
Email Legislators about Teacher Licensure

SCHOOL DISCIPLINE

By including several provisions from the Student Inclusion and Engagement Act, the Governor has stepped up to play a leadership role in reforming school discipline. HF3186 would require schools to use nonexclusionary discipline practices before removing a student from the classroom, expand notification rights of parents whose students were suspended, and clarify grounds for dismissals. The bill would also prohibit the dismissal of pre-kindergarten students and ensure better supports for our youngest learners. 

OUR TAKE: Exclusionary discipline practices have a negative impact on academic achievement and long-term student outcomes, and there is growing research that nonexclusionary discipline practices help to reduce suspensions and improve school climate. To tackle our state’s ongoing achievement gaps, we need to address the disproportionate dismissal rates facing students of color and students with special needs and keep kids in class where they can learn. 

By improving transparency, accountability, and parental involvement, strengthening student due process, protecting our youngest learners, and more, these policies will take first steps to improving Minnesota’s approach to student discipline, improving both school climate and academic outcomes. 
Email Legislators about School Discipline

LUNCH SHAMING

The Governor’s bill would finally address lunch shaming, by prohibiting schools from shaming or denying lunch to children, even if they have an outstanding balance. The bill also lists examples of activities that qualify as lunch shaming and holds schools accountable if they participate in these activities. 

OUR TAKE: All students deserve to have a meal at school without shame or punishment. These commonsense provisions address the issue and set a clear floor for how schools address lunch balances without demeaning or stigmatizing students.

DIVERSIFYING THE TEACHER WORKFORCE 

The Governor’s bill contains several provisions from the 2020 Increase Teachers of Color Act, including:

  • requiring that curriculum, learning, and work environments are inclusive and respectful of all racial and ethnic groups,
  • setting statewide goals for increasing the number of teachers of color and American Indian teachers, 
  • requiring a bi-annual report on the effectiveness of state-funded programs aimed at recruiting and retaining teachers of color and American Indian teachers, and more. 

OUR TAKE: Minnesota students are increasingly diverse, with black, Latino, Asian, and Native American students making up 34% of our student body. Nonetheless, 96% of Minnesota teachers are white, making for one of the least diverse teacher workforces in the nation. We know this disconnect impacts students and is one driver of our deep achievement and opportunity gaps. There is ample evidence that teachers of color close achievement gaps, reduce student suspensions, and improve high school graduation rates, especially for students of color and indigenous students, and it’s time to make this issue a priority. 

CHARTER OVERSIGHT & OPERATIONS 

The Governor’s bill includes some specific changes that would impact charter school operations. First, it would codify that “affiliated building corporations”—entities that lease schools since charter schools cannot own their school building outright—can only own one building. It would also change the terms under which the Commissioner of Education can terminate charter authorizers without providing clear parameters for decision-making.

OUR TAKE: These changes would create operational barriers for high-quality charter schools without a clear rationale for how they would support school and student success. 

ACADEMIC CREDIT REQUIREMENTS

The Governor’s bill includes changes to graduation requirements, adding one required credit of physical education, and reducing the minimum requirement for electives from seven to six. The bill would replace an elective science credit with the required earth and space science credit. 

OUR TAKE: Several school and district leaders have expressed concerns that these changes would have a negative impact on career and technical education. Today, many students take CTE courses to fulfill their elective science credit, building applicable, technical skills and knowledge. The proposed changes would have the unintended consequence of reducing flexibility for schools and students seeking to design a rigorous, engaging, and personalized high school experience. Some districts are also concerned about teacher shortages: though there are over 460 public schools in Minnesota serving 9th-grade students, only 371 teachers hold an earth and space license.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS 

The 55-page bill includes many other provisions that would impact students and schools. Other notable provisions include: 

  • Adding language to remove barriers to high school graduation for homeless students;
  • Explicitly allowing American Indian students to wear eagle feathers at graduation;
  • Requiring the Commissioner of Education to develop and adopt state standards for social, emotional, and cognitive development; and 
  • Adding a measure of “culturally responsive leadership practices” to a principal’s evaluation.
WHAT’S NEXT

The Governor’s bill will be considered further by the committee, with some provisions likely advancing and others failing to move forward. Advocates will be weighing in on what they like and what they don’t in the coming weeks. To share your thoughts, you can reach out to the Governor and Commissioner of Education directly, as well as members of the House education committee