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Education policy bill — including proposed student cell phone policy — passes House; conference committee expected – Session Daily



After nearly four hours of House debate Thursday evening, the education policy bill is headed back to the Senate.


“This wide-ranging policy bill … picks up where last year’s bill left off,” said Rep. Laurie Pryor (DFL-Minnetonka). “We focus on important measures to give schools flexibility, address students’ mental health, eliminate special education paperwork, address protected speech and more.”


Amended to include the House language, HF3782/SF3567* was passed 69-61. Also amended six other times, it now goes back to the Senate which passed its version 35-31 April 2. A conference committee is expected to iron out the differences. Pryor and Sen. Steve Cwodzinski (DFL-Eden Prairie) are the sponsors.


“(Compiling the bill) was great work and I really appreciate it. And it came from both sides of the aisle,” Pryor said. “So good things are going to turn out from that.”


Rep. Ben Bakeberg (R-Jordan) said the bill is missing many key things that could be easily fixed, such as mandate reductions.


“My real hope is that we would actually listen to the people that do the job every single day. And I think that’s probably my biggest disappointment with this bill is that we didn’t really truly listen.”

Minnesota House floor debate on SF3567, the education policy bill 4/11/24


Among its provisions, the bill would require policies on students’ possession and use of cell phones in school, allow school boards to implement a four-day school week, improve charter school oversight, require mental health education for students in grades 4-12, add performance measures for the 2025-26 school year in a district’s World’s Best Workforce plan, and add to the definition of “on track for graduation.”


Special education teachers


To open doors for more special education teachers in Minnesota, the bill would expand professional degree, certification and work experience requirements to receive a Tier 1 or Tier 2 special education license. It would also modify the requirement for using the portfolio process to obtain a Tier 3 license and expand eligibility for a Tier 4 license. It would also create a working group on special education licensure reciprocity


Rep. Peggy Bennett (R-Albert Lea) unsuccessfully offered an amendment to only allow the Tier 1 license to be renewed more than two times. The same fate was met by a Bennett amendment to allow the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board to review requirements for special education licensure reciprocity.


Cell phones


Citing conflicts, a toxic culture, distractions and deterring human interaction, the bill would require a school district or charter school to adopt a policy on students’ possession and use of cell phones in school by March 15, 2025.


The Minnesota Elementary School Principals Association and the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals “must collaborate to make best practices available to schools on a range of different strategies in order to minimize the impact of cell phones on student behavior, mental health, and academic attainment.”


Student journalists


The bill would give student journalists many of the same rights as working journalists, including the right to exercise freedom of speech and freedom of the press in school, and prohibit a school district or charter school from disciplining a student journalist for exercising rights or freedoms under the First Amendment. It requires schools to adopt and post a student journalist policy.


It also would prohibit a school district or charter school from retaliating against a student media adviser for supporting a student journalist exercising free speech rights, and prohibit certain types of student expression, and advertisements that promote the purchase of a product or service that is unlawful for purchase or use by minors.


Amendments


A quartet of other Republican amendments were successfully added to the bill. They would:


  • require a school board to provide written notice to a coach whose contract will not be renewed for the following school year within 60 days of the activity’s regular season ending;

  • develop a model notice that districts can provide to students and parents or guardians about the implications of and impact to students and their families regarding the dissemination of private sexual images;

  • require a school to provide parental access to the individual student performance data and achievement report when each is available to the school; and

  • temporarily allow Jordan, Prior Lake-Savage, Eastern Carver County, Litchfield and Hutchinson school districts to publish proceedings and legal notices on their websites instead of a local newspaper. The owner of 10 Southwest News Media newspapers announced publications in those areas will cease operations later this month


Other Republican-offered amendments were unsuccessful, including ones that would have:


  • allowed a school board to adopt a resolution suspending mandates established under 2023 laws until July 1, 2025;

  • established a legislative study group to review all state education mandates not required under federal law and submit a report to the Legislature by Jan. 2, 2025, recommending education mandates for repeal or revision;

  • removed ethnic studies requirements from social studies courses;

  • replaced language of non-exclusionary disciplinary policies and practices with providing alternative educational services;

  • required applicants for Tier 3 and Tier 4 licenses in elementary education to pass an examination or performance assessment of knowledge, skill, and ability to provide evidence-based literacy instruction;

  • directed the Education Department to release statewide assessment test results at the end of the school year rather than the proposed Dec. 1 in the bill;

  • have the READ Act use science-based, rather than evidence-based, reading research; and

  • given short-call substitute teachers the same rate of pay as other short-call substitute teachers in the school district or the employee’s existing rate of pay, whichever is greater.


 



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