Legislation approved this week by the Minnesota House would provide much-needed funding to help students recover from the lost learning of the past year.
Sponsored by Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis, HF 1064 would appropriate $104.5 million for after-school and summer programming to help students who fell behind academically during the coronavirus pandemic. Early reports from districts indicate that many students are struggling to learn remotely.
The House bill would fund child care, community partnerships for tutoring and mentoring, math and reading programs, field trips and expanded school-based mental health programs. A speedy passage is needed because schools are in the process of planning summer programs.
"With more than 90% of schools now in-person learning and teaching, with more school staff vaccinated, we have reason to hope and reason to act," Davnie said. "We can make summer work for students and focus our work on those who need it most."
The bill reflects the summer learning plan Gov. Tim Walz recommended early this month. The governor had requested $150 million, but the House reduced the amount to $104.5 million, understanding that the difference would be covered by federal funding. The $104.5 million would be in addition to whatever is included in the major education bill working its way through the Legislature.
A large part of the measure would support districts that have experienced pandemic-related enrollment loss by increasing the declining-enrollment formula. About $29 million in one-time money would help stabilize those districts. Another $20 million would be devoted to preschool grants for low-income families.
The Senate Education Finance and Policy Committee is considering a companion bill, SF 973, sponsored by committee chair Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes. Chamberlain and other Senate Republicans believe the aid should come from the federal government, and some contend the House bill would benefit urban districts more than their rural counterparts.
President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan will provide $129 billion to help states deal with the various educational impacts of the pandemic. Minnesota is expect to receive just over $1 billion of that funding.
Eleven key education groups — including the Association of Metropolitan School Districts and state organizations of school administrators, principals and rural educators — announced their support for the Walz plan.
The House and Senate should work to find common ground on the legislation and quickly move it along to the governor so that districts can help students get back on track.