Legislation will have an immediate positive impact on students

The following column appeared originally in a number of APG of East Central Minnesota newspapers during June, 2023


Legislation will have an immediate positive impact

on students


Four legislators gave me sometimes surprising responses when I asked them what laws approved this year would have the most positive impact on young people. Their answers offer helpful insights about how students and adults can have an influence on the Legislature.

Sen. Steve Cwodzinski, DFL-Eden Prairie, offered examples of immediately impactful legislation that students helped pass. He praised three high school students who approached him several years ago, describing the embarrassment some high school students have when they don’t have menstrual products in schools. “It took three years, but this year the bill passed,” he said. As of Jan. 1, 2024, all Minnesota public schools must provide free access to menstrual products for menstruating students grades 4-12. The Legislature allocated several million dollars to support this. Here’s a link to a Minnesota House hearing on this issue in which students from Hopkins and Eagan testified.

Cwodzinski also cited new high school graduation requirements. Beginning with next year’s ninth graders, all students must pass a civics and a personal finance class before graduating. He thinks these classes can provide vital information and hopes these courses will feature “hands-on” active, project and service-learning opportunities.

Sen. Steve Cwodzinski (Photo credit Mn State Senate)

Rep. Laurie Pryor, DFL-Minnetonka, chairs the Minnesota House K-12 Education Policy Committee. She’s very pleased that “we listened to experts who can help us turn the corner on where we stand with literacy. Millions of dollars were allocated for curriculum development and training on research-based approaches to teaching reading.” Pryor emphasized that the state will “track progress to measure the impact of this funding.” She also cited support for early childhood programs in public schools and expansion of early childhood programs beginning in July 2025.

Rep. Laurie Pryor (photo credit Mn House of Representatives

Rep. Cheryl Youakim, DFL-Hopkins, chairs the House K-12 Education Finance Committee. She told me: “We’ve been talking about two things for 20 years. We finally did them. Specifically, we indexed education funding to inflation, and we significantly increased support for districts and charters to provide services for students with special needs.” She believes these two actions will help educators more effectively serve students throughout the state.

Rep. Cheryl Youakim (photo credit from Mn House of Representatives


Here’s one other valuable idea that the Minnesota Legislature approved, which I’m mentioning because of an upcoming application deadline. Earlier in the spring, I wrote about legislative efforts to expand the number of Minnesota students learning construction skills as they built homes for families with low incomes and/or experiencing homelessness. Legislators heard from participating young people that these programs were immensely useful and gratifying. Educators across the state wrote legislators that they want to create more similar, opportunities.

So legislators passed two different laws to help more students participate in construction for low-income family homes.

The first involves more money for YouthBuild (see tinyurl.com/55rw85yk). Rep. Matt Norris, DFL-Blaine, was chief author in the Minnesota House. He told me that he is “delighted that legislators recognize these programs are ‘a triple win’ – for the students who gain these skills, for the low-income families who will get high quality permanent housing, and for the state’s economy as a whole, with more well trained workers.”


Rep Matt Norris, photo credit Mn House of Representatives

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development plans to issue $600,000 for YouthBuild programs, with the largest grant available being $150,000. The application deadline is June 30. More information is available here.

I’ll share more information this summer about a second legislatively funded opportunity in this area.

These are outstanding examples of laws that will have a positive impact. It’s also good to see legislators willing to work, sometimes over several years, with educators, families and students to help improve and expand learning in Minnesota.

Joe Nathan, Ph.D., formerly a Minnesota public school educator and PTA president, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions welcome: joe@centerforschoolchange.org.