Legislature passes inadequate education bill

The Minnesota Legislature wrapped up its special session May 26, passing an education bill with barely-inflationary funding increases and harmful changes to teacher licensing and layoff regulations.
The bill is also void of necessary fixes to the teacher pension fund.

"We cannot accept the long-term harm to the students of Minnesota and their families that will be caused by the bills moving through the chambers and are asking Gov. Mark Dayton to publicly declare them all dead on arrival and reset the process,” said Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota.

The education bill passed the House by a 76-54 vote and the Senate 34-28. This bill devalues the profession, allows people with little to no training to teach our children and makes it harder to recruit and retain quality educators. The bill includes:

  • $467.8 million in new spending for preschools through high school—about $167 million more than a bill vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton earlier in the month. About three-quarters of the new funding—$367 million—will go toward a 2 percent annual increase over the biennium on the per-pupil formula. An additional $50 million is earmarked for school readiness dollars that could be used for public preschool and another $20 million for preschool vouchers.
  • Teacher licensing standard changes that give school districts too much authority to hire people with much less teacher training. People can receive an unlimited teaching license without any teacher preparation training—essentially allowing someone to teach for their entire career without any training on how to teach.
  • No changes to the Teachers Retirement Association to improve the long-term stability of the pension. TRA’s board offered a balanced solution that would maintain a reliable, sustainable pension for current and future generations of teachers.
  • The removal of baseline language for unrequested leaves of absence for teachers during times of budget trouble. When union and district negotiators can’t agree on a local system for layoffs, state law says the default is based on seniority and licensure area. This default was created because it protected teachers from arbitrary or vindictive dismissals. Layoff language is now up for negotiation, without the familiar safety net.

The 2017 session saw unprecedented levels of educator activism, which forced Republican leaders to up their initial education spending and abandon their proposal to offer back-door vouchers for private schools.
This shows that elections matter. Minnesota needs pro-education majorities in the House and Senate to make meaningful improvements to schools and the profession.

It also shows educators have the power to affect change when they raise their collective voice, but real progress can only come after election victories.