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Nonpublic schools doing more with less; bi-partisan opposition to assisted suicide

By the Minnesota Catholic Conference
Inside the Capitol

Minnesota has a longstanding policy that certain financial supports are allocated for all K-12 students irrespective of a family’s choice of school, including textbooks, nursing services, transportation, and counseling aid. Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC), and an interfaith coalition of nonpublic school stakeholders (Nonpublic Education Partners), advocate to ensure those nonpublic pupil supports are adequately funded and easily accessible.

Since the pandemic began, nonpublic schools have done heroic work to provide in-person learning as much as possible. As a result, many nonpublic schools are seeing significant enrollment increases.

Yet because the state ties nonpublic pupil aid to public school usage, the funding for those student supports has decreased. In other words, on top of an already difficult job, Catholic schools are doing more with less.

Restoring nursing services

For example, the per pupil allocation for nursing services has dropped by $20 per student. As a remedy, nonpublic school advocates are requesting a one-time fiscal appropriation to restore nursing services for the current school year and prevent a funding shortage that is slated to occur due to shifting enrollment during the pandemic. There is no excuse to shortchange nursing services with the persistence of COVID-19 and the availability of related federal COVID relief funds that can be used.

Counseling services

A recent U.S. Surgeon General report makes clear that mental health issues among young people are growing exponentially. Yet under the current law, only nonpublic students in grades 7-12 receive these services. We are asking for an extension of services to students in grades K-6.

Independence in transportation options

Transportation funding has also gone down, and nonpublic school families sometimes lose their public transportation altogether when public schools go to distance learning. In addition to advocating for a backfilling of transportation funds, MCC will be advocating for a policy change to allow school districts and non-public schools to find alternative transportation arrangements for nonpublic school students if the school and district mutually agree.

Vigilance needed against assisted suicide bills

While we will continue to advocate for our Catholic school students when the legislature gavels back into session on Jan. 31, we also know there will be a flurry of other issues impacting life, dignity, and the common good.

One issue with growing bipartisan support is that Minnesotans deserve real health care throughout life’s journey. As a founding member of the Minnesota Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, MCC has played a leadership role in creating ongoing educational webinars designed to highlight the breadth and diversity of voices who support real care and oppose assisted suicide.

The latest installment featured Senators John Hoffman and Jim Abeler, who discussed their bipartisan advocacy for people with disabilities. Specifically, they outlined the inherent discrimination and ableism of assisted suicide laws and how their opposition of assisted suicide transcends party affiliation. They encouraged advocates to continue to talk to legislators and share stories about why assisted suicide is the wrong policy for Minnesota and endangers the healthcare choices of everyone. You can watch this and past webinars by visiting www.ethicalcaremn.org/webinars.