Testimony of Mr. Pete Noll, Education Director, Concerns Regarding H.F. 826 (Davnie) ~ Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act

To: House Civil Law Committee
From: Peter Noll, Education Director, Minnesota Catholic Conference
Date: March 5, 2013
Mister Chair and Members,

I am Peter Noll, Education Director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference. Thank you for the opportunity to testify on House File 826, the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act.

Our position is that school bullying is pervasive, reprehensible and we commend Senator Dibble for his efforts to take on this daunting blight on society.

Before serving in my current position, I was a school administrator for 25 years.  Having to deal with incidences of bullying was a frustrating and tragic experience in which there are, simply put, no winners.  However, in the interest of justice, I felt it was an important aspect of my ministry to enforce policies, restore justice, impart consequences and strive toward reconciliation.

Therefore, we agree with the author and previous witnesses that school bullying is a serious issue that needs to be ameliorated and policies strengthened to protect all children from such reprehensible behavior.  All children are entitled to a safe, secure learning environment.

However, we do not concede that Minnesota nonpublic sectarian schools are included in this legislation.  Section 3, Subdivision 1(b) indicates that this section applies to school districts as defined in section 121A.41, subdivision 3, and schools as defined in section 120A.05, subdivisions 9, 11, 13, and 17, and in 123B.41, subdivision 9, if the school, other than a home school, receives public funds or other public resources.

Our premise is that Article XIII, Section 2 expressly prohibits aid to sectarian schools by unambiguously declaring in no case shall any public money or property be appropriated or used for the support of schools wherein the distinctive doctrines, creeds or tenets of any particular Christian or other religious sect are promulgated or taught.

Further, Minnesota Statute 123B.40 clearly states that it is the intent of the legislature to distribute educational aids such as textbooks, standardized tests and pupil support services so that every school pupil in the state will share equitably in education benefits and therefore further assure all Minnesota pupils and their parents’ freedom of choice in education.

In the wisdom of the legislature some 38 years ago, they understood and demonstrated fidelity to our state constitution by stating that the benefits under this chapter are to be distributed to students not school systems.  In my 25 years as a private school administrator, dating to the enactment of this chapter, I do not recall ever cashing a check from the Minnesota Department of Revenue.  All allotment under this chapter, and any other chapter for that matter, are received and administered by the local school district.  All textbooks are stamped as property of the local school district and on loan to the nonpublic school student.  Personnel assigned by the local school district to deliver services to nonpublic school students are either school district personnel or contracted by the local school district.

Mister Chair and members, based on the premises I have presented, we do not concede that sectarian schools are or can be included in the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act.

Thank you for your kind consideration of our position regarding House File 826. That concludes my testimony, Mister Chair.  I will stand for any questions members may have of me.

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