Minnesota Senate approves Senator Nelson’s education bill to help schools, students, and teachers during COVID pandemic

The Minnesota Senate approved a supplemental education finance bill to help schools manage their resources and support Minnesota’s teachers and students during the coronavirus pandemic. The bipartisan, consensus bill was the product of in-depth negotiations, and enjoys the support of every school association in Minnesota.

“Schools have been closed since March and districts all over the state have shifted to a distance learning model,” said Sen. Carla Nelson, the Senate’s Education Committee chairwoman. “These are unprecedented circumstances with unprecedented challenges. This bill gives schools badly-needed flexibility to use the significant resources we passed last year meet their own new, unique needs.”

The centerpiece of the bill gives schools and school districts the ability to address budget shortages by allowing them to make adjustments and transfer money between existing revenue accounts. While schools are continuing to receive the aids and levies approved in last year’s historic $20 billion education bill, school budgets have been significantly impacted by COVID much like any other government or business. Granting this flexibility will help schools retain more teachers and staff, so they can continue to provide a high-quality education with as little upheaval as possible.

Other provisions included in the Senate’s Education bill:

  • The bill also strikes a state mandate requiring districts to set aside certain amounts of compensatory revenue for extended time activities. This provision has been sought after by school groups.
  • The bill also provides districts with flexibility to keep more teachers in classrooms by modifying probationary requirements to reflect days lost due to COVID-19.
  • The bill instructs the commissioner of Education to prioritize using federal CARES Act funding to help schools comply with distance learning requirements.
  • The bill instructs the commissioner of Education to work with the Department of Labor and Industry to provide information to middle school and high school age students on careers in high growth, in-demand skilled trades.
  • The bill provides districts with waivers to certain state statutes, like statewide assessments, to recognize the unique situations that exist during this health emergency and required distance Learning period.

The bill was approved by a vote of 66-1 in the Senate and 75-55 in the House, and has been sent to Gov. Tim Walz for his signature.