Legislative Session Summary.
The 2019 Minnesota state legislative session ended on May 25 after a special session extension past the original deadline of May 20th. Before we dive in too much, some important context is that Minnesota is the only state to have a divided legislature with the Senate under Republican control and the House under Democratic control. The legislative session was largely marked by partisan disagreements over issues like the gas and provider tax. The end result was a two-year budget of $48 billion with wins and losses for vulnerable children, fosters, and families.
Here are some of the highlights of the major issues impacting child welfare that we were tracking and/or supported:
Health and Human Services
An extension of the provider tax that was scheduled to sunset this year. The rate will be reduced to 1.8%. This will allow for sustained funding of the Health Care Access Fund and the health care programs many families rely on.An increase of the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) cash assistance grant by $100 more per family per month. This is the first increase since 1980.The Reestablishment of Parental Rights legislation was passed and will allow a parent whose parental rights have been terminated to petition the court to re-establish custody if the child is still in foster care and all the conditions that led to terminating parental rights have been corrected. Previously, only county attorneys could file such a petition.
The Keep Foster Kids in School Act was not passed. The legislation would have ensured that students in foster care would have increased educational stability by requiring that fosters are enrolled in school after placement in a foster home.We had a lot of support but lost when the Education Conference Committee could not come to an agreement on any policy. The silver lining is that because we passed our stand-alone bill off the House floor we will start the next session (second half of the biennium) at the Senate Education Committee and do not need to go through the House again.Protection of the All Kids Count Act (AKC), which requires disaggregating student data by racial subgroups, military families, and for students in or formerly in foster care.Despite defeating the repeal effort, it is too early to celebrate. As of this June, Minnesota is now out of compliance with the AKC and the federal education law (ESSA) for foster care data reporting. We have met with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) to share our concerns. We are still considering action steps. However, we believe MDE is working diligently with the Department of Human Services on a data sharing agreement that will allow them to be in compliance.An extension of the Foster Care Transportation Pilot that would have renewed $2 million worth of funding for costs related to transporting students in foster care was not passed. It also could not break through the Education Conference Committee.
Overall, there were big wins, but the legislature missed opportunities to better protect and increase the quality of care for fosters. The 2020 legislative session will provide another opportunity for the community and advocates to be heard. Thank you to everyone that joined us and we look forward to continuing to work alongside all of you to improve Minnesota’s Child Welfare System and the lives of fosters.
Currently, no record keeping exists for how children in foster care perform in Minnesota’s schools. Additionally, the state has a patchwork system of how and when foster children should be enrolled in school. This is causing some youth to report missing over a month of school. This is unacceptable.
The foster care community has been left out of the narrative when it comes to educational outcomes. We are working to change this.
To learn more and find ways to help please reach out to our Executive Director at firstname.lastname@example.org