Testimony in Support of S.F. 3933 (Bennett) (School board and nonpublic school allowed to enter into nonpublic school student transportation agreement)
House Education Policy Committee
March 21, 2022
*Begin watching at 1:25:00
Mr. Chair and members of the Committee:
I am Jason Adkins, Executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, and I am here today on behalf of Minnesota Nonpublic Ed Partners, a coalition of nonpublic and independent schools and stakeholders. We support HF3937, which provides flexibility between nonpublic schools and school districts regarding transportation services.
Thank you to Rep. Bennett for bringing it forward.
Minnesota Statutes Section 123B.40 clarifies an important principle of education policy in this state, which is to provide certain forms of aid to all students, irrespective of their attendance at public, independent or home school, including counseling aid, textbooks, nursing services and transportation aid. The statute notes that the goal is to establish equity in certain state educational benefits.
School districts administer the transportation aid and provide busing services to nonpublic school students in their district. This works well in many places. Sometimes, however, nonpublic schools are required to change their start times on an annual basis, or are stuck with whatever routes that are offered to them, which may require them to start as late as mid morning.
As you will hear from another testifier, this may inhibit some families from attending their choice of school altogether.
The pandemic exacerbated the problem of nonpublic school students accessing their transportation aid when busing services were shut down while public schools were not holding class in person, but private schools were.
Fortunately, during the time the Safe Learning Plan was in effect, and with the consent of the school district, MDE allowed nonpublic schools to work directly with the busing companies to arrange transportation for students.
But once the Peacetime Emergency Order was lifted, the Safe Learning Plan was no longer in effect, and it is unclear whether this flexibility is still available to school districts and nonpublic schools.
Therefore, this legislation makes permanent what was already policy during the Peacetime Emergency Order. By mutual agreement, school districts and nonpublic schools may create an alternative transportation arrangement for transporting nonpublic school students.
Specifically, HF3937 outlines options for this voluntary arrangement if the school district is contracting for bus and transportation services or if the school district uses employees to provide transportation services.
Please support this reform which will be beneficial to students and public school districts. Thank you.