Jan 20, 2020, Faribault MN, SouthernMinn: 4 education issues Minnesota lawmakers want to tackle in 2020 https://www.southernminn.com/article_1ae7a477-dc03-580d-ba00-faeda5fb8c23.html Legislators who work on education issues in Minnesota are drawing up their plans to address some of the state’s most urgent problems, including things like student mental health issues, gaps in early childhood education, career and technical education and the state’s persistent education disparities…. Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, leads the Senate committee focused on Education Policy and Finance: “To the person, counselors have told me our biggest concern is mental health,” said Nelson. “And of course we know that students have to be mentally well in order to really succeed and fulfill their greatest potential. And we also know that mental health can be addressed perhaps best in our schools.” In the past Nelson has championed school-linked mental health grants. Lawmakers in the House have also said they want to make mental health in schools a priority. But they have focused more on funding mental health support within the framework of community schools — a model that aims to bring social services into public schools to help students and their families. Rep. Cheryl Youakim, DFL-Hopkins, leads the House Education Policy Committee. She and others in her party have been championing community schools. They envision them as a full-service hub to address mental heath needs and Minnesota’s education opportunity gap: “I think mental health issues are one of those No. 1 issues that I think everybody realizes we need to start tackling and addressing,” she said. “I think different ways of looking at the opportunity gap, focusing on things that we’ve seen that work and funding those things that work — full service community schools is one of those things.” Last year lawmakers were focused on passing an education budget. This year, the focus is more on policy. But lawmakers have a projected $1.3 billion budget surplus to work with. Nelson thinks much of that surplus should go back to taxpayers. Specifically, she wants to fully exempt Social Security income from state taxes. But if there’s any surplus money available for education, she wants that money to go to the youngest learners. … Davnie also thinks there’s room to support mental health in schools and career-technical education….