Home Minnesota Educator February-March 2022 Legislative priorities focus on funding and supporting welcoming, racially just schools, pandemic recovery

Legislative priorities focus on funding and supporting welcoming, racially just schools, pandemic recovery

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Fully funding public education. Improving the living and working conditions for education support professionals. Addressing the issues in our schools the pandemic has put an even brighter spotlight on.

These are all issues Education Minnesota plans to bring forward during the 2022 legislative session, and push for legislation to move toward the fully funded, racially just schools Minnesota students and educators deserve.

Education Minnesota’s full legislative agenda and information on numerous issues can be found at www.educationminnesota.org/advocacy/at-the-legislature.

The agenda includes issues such as:

Increased education funding

If we’re serious about making sure every student can pursue their dreams, our state needs to get serious about funding what works. One of the biggest problems is the state’s share of funding schools hasn’t kept pace with inflation—it’s now 16.3 percent less than it was in 2003 in real dollars.

Education Minnesota supports these legislative proposals and more:

  • Reverse the state’s perpetual underfunding of education by significantly increasing the per-pupil funding formula and tying it annually to inflation.
  • Ensure all students, no matter what they look like or where they come from, have equitable access to welcoming schools where they see themselves reflected in the curriculum.
  • Fully fund special education costs at the state and federal levels instead of relying on school districts to pay for them.
  • Make post-secondary education affordable and accessible so all students can pursue higher education free from the stress of unmanageable loans and debts. This includes expanding Minnesota’s existing teacher loan forgiveness program and adding a permanent student loan advocate to enforce our recently passed Borrower Bill of Rights and pursue abuses by loan servicers and lenders.
  • Invest in infrastructure and deferred maintenance in K-12 schools and college campuses, including heating/cooling and ventilation systems, so that all students—no matter where they live—are in high-quality learning environments and have access to a wide range of resources and a well-rounded education.
  • Provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for all workers through a payroll deduction and employer tax.
  • Ensure sustainable funding for teacher pensions, including opposing any deviation from the 2018 pensions framework that does not address maintaining the purchasing power for retirees.

Student support staff

Student and educator mental health is a growing concern across Minnesota. Time and again, Education Minnesota members rank access to mental health supports as their number one concern. 

The research is clear—when students have access to comprehensive support services, they do better in school. But our state trails the rest of the nation when it comes to investing in school counselors, nurses, social workers and other support staff our students need to succeed.

Education Minnesota will advocate for more school counselors, psychologists, social workers and nurses to meet our students’ needs.

Time to teach and pandemic recovery

The pandemic made staffing shortage problems in our schools a crisis where districts are scrambling to hire and keep teachers and other school staff. While more solutions will surface, here’s what the Legislature can do to start addressing these unsustainable shortages and the need to retain our educators:

  • Extend paid COVID-19 leave for school staff who are sick, quarantining or caring for a loved one who is quarantining. 
  • Increase prep time by 50 percent so educators can talk with students and parents, grade homework and plan the next day’s lesson during their contract day. 
  • Offer free or reduced college tuition and hiring bonuses to attract more educators to the profession.
  • Offer more programs and financial assistance for paraprofessionals to be licensed educators.  
  • Allow retired teachers to return as substitutes without impacting their pension benefits.  
  • Provide schools with full-time substitutes based on their student enrollment numbers. 
  • Raise substitute pay to at least 90 percent starting wage salary for teachers. 
  • Pay teachers who cover a class for absent colleagues double their hourly rate and expanded prep time. 

Full-service community schools

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that schools are truly the hubs of our communities. And our full-service community schools were even better equipped to quickly respond to family needs because of the relationships built with their partners. Education Minnesota supports providing $90 million a year in state funding to help the state’s existing 19 full-service community schools continue their work and allow other schools to become full-service models as well.

Special education

Educators working in special education feel they don’t have enough instructional time because of their redundant and burdensome paperwork requirements.

Education Minnesota supports:

  • Requiring the state to fund its portion of special education costs instead of relying on school districts to pay for them. The special education cross subsidy will cost school districts about $724 million in fiscal year 2021.
  • Reducing local district paperwork requirements and caseloads for our special education educators.

ESP Bill of Rights

All education support professionals deserve the pay and benefits to sustain a family, safe work environments and a voice in their working conditions. Education Minnesota supports the following legislative proposals to improve pay and benefits for ESPs and elevate their voice in decisions on staffing levels and working conditions:

  • Require school districts and charter schools to pay their ESPs at least $25 an hour. Every school employee should have the right to spend time at home with her or his own children, without working two or three extra jobs to survive.
  • Ensure our hourly school workers, who perform critical jobs and are woefully underpaid, are eligible for unemployment insurance.
  • Help educators and all Minnesotans get high quality, affordable health care. This includes allowing people to buy into MinnesotaCare and fighting for other public options.
  • Require paraprofessionals who work directly with students to receive 16 hours of paid training prior to the beginning of each school year.
  • Provide essential worker pay to ESPs who worked in-person during the pandemic providing childcare, food delivery and other support services.

Racially just schools

If we want all students to thrive and succeed, Minnesota must build culturally responsive schools that reflect the diverse students they serve. We can start doing this by:

  • Increasing welcoming schools: Ensure all students, no matter what they look like or where they come from, have equitable access to welcoming schools where they see themselves reflected in the curriculum.
  • Attracting and retaining teachers of color: Increase starting salaries and create loan forgiveness, mentoring and other programs and protections to support educators on the job.
  • Expanding ethnic studies curriculum: Develop a more accurate and holistic understanding of our state’s diverse inhabitants, history, geography, government and economics. Education Minnesota members, students, parents and community allies will work together to demand new curriculum in their local school districts.
  • Expanding trauma-informed practices: Create funding for schools with large racial disparities to provide trauma-informed professional development to all staff who work with students.

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