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Legislative session will look different, still be busy

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The 2021 Minnesota legislative session promises to be a busy one as state lawmakers grapple with crafting a two-year state budget amid a global pandemic that threatens our health, safety and economic security. 

Minnesota has a projected $1.96 billion deficit over the next biennium, setting the stage for intense battles over spending and increasing tax revenue, as well as the state response to COVID-19. Session begins Jan. 5.

The COVID-19 crisis reinforced the fact that schools are the bedrock of our communities. It also highlighted something educators already knew—the glaring inequities our students and working families face every day in Minnesota, particularly people of color and low-income families.

That’s why Education Minnesota will continue to push for fully funding public education so students and educators—no matter what they look like or where they come from—have the safe and racially just schools they deserve.

Our state needs to get serious about funding what works. Minnesota’s share of funding for public school districts hasn’t kept pace with inflation—it’s now 11.8 percent less than 2003 in real dollars.

Education Minnesota’s full legislative agenda can be found at www.educationminnesota.org/advocacy/at-the-legislature. Some of our main areas of focus during the 2021 session include:

  • Increasing racial equity funding. Creating a new funding stream and increasing American Indian aid so schools can better serve students of color and Indigenous students.
  • Passing an ESP Bill of Rights. This includes fair compensation for their vital work, affordable health care and safe working conditions.
  • Recruiting and retaining educators of color. Minnesota can do this by increasing starting salaries, creating loan forgiveness, mentorship and other programs and protections to support educators on the job.
  • Increasing student support services. We can strengthen mental health and trauma support for our students by restoring staff cuts and adding more counselors, social workers, psychologists, nurses and other job classifications back into
  • our schools.
  • Broadening access to full-service community schools. This is a proven way to help all students succeed in school by putting social, medical and before- and after-school academic services and enrichment activities where they are most accessible—on the school campus.
  • Increasing student loan forgiveness. Post-secondary education must be affordable and accessible to attract more students to the education profession.
  • Universal access to child care and early learning.
  • COVID-related relief such as expanding broadband services, waiving TDE requirements and giving educators a voice in creating quality, safe learning models during the pandemic.

Your union will also advocate for policy changes. This includes improving the tiered licensure system to both honor teacher preparation and recognize different pathways into teaching and ensuring ECFE and ABE teachers are covered under the continuing contract and tenure rights laws.

The 2020 election did not drastically change the makeup of the Legislature. Democrats still control the Minnesota House and Republicans the state Senate.

The House and Senate had not named the chairs of the education committees as of press time. It is the job of each committee to hold public hearings on bills, put each bill into its best form and to recommend only those bills that the committee feels merit further consideration. Committee chairs can control who is able to testify and the overall discussion of a bill.

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