Educational Programs and Resources Were Focus of November's Immigrant and Refugee Affairs Forum
November 9, 2021
This month’s forum shared a lot of great resources for community members regarding education programs and financial aid available to students and parents from the Minnesota Department of Education and the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. We also learned about the RETAIN Program for ill or injured workers.
Department of Education Resources for New-to-Country Parents and Students
Michael Bowlus and Lee Her from the Minnesota Department of Education shared with us that Minnesota has robust education laws requiring equal educational opportunities for multilingual learners and new-to-country students. In addition, state funding for language assistance programs is more generous here than in most states. Even with these laws and funding, parents and community members play a critical role in holding schools and districts accountable for the success of all students.
Next, they went over several programs and resources available to new-to-country parents.
COMPASS – The Collaborative Minnesota Partnerships to Advance Student Success (COMPASS) is a new statewide education system designed to support student learning recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the 2021-22 school year and beyond, educators, school staff and school leaders will have new opportunities for professional learning and coaching, along with coordinated support from experts at the Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota Service Cooperatives and Regional Centers of Excellence.
American Rescue Plan: ESSER III Funding – This plan includes important Minnesota funding priorities for new-to-country students like expanded access to tutoring and mental, social, emotional, and physical health services. This plan also includes funding for expanded language access for families who communicate in other languages and expanded access to advanced coursework for students of color and English learners.
Parent’s Guide to School for Families New to the Country - Contains general information about parent’s rights and protections under federal law, the enrollment process and more.
Identification for English Learner Status – In order to qualify, parents answer questions on the Minnesota Language Survey about their child’s primary home language. Next, students whose primary home language is not English take an English language proficiency test that measures their academic English skills in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Students not yet proficient in English will have English language classes in addition to other course work.
Office of Higher Education Programs and Resources for Students
Nekey Oliver from The Minnesota Office of Higher Education gave an overview of their programs available to students. Their mission is to support the pursuit of higher education credentials by every Minnesotan, regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status in order to enhance our democracy, the State’s economic vitality and individual quality of life. Their primary role is to issue financial aid via the Minnesota State Grant Program. Some of the financial aid programs they administer include FAFSA, The Minnesota Dream Act, and the SELF Loan. Nekey also mentioned that in 2015, the Minnesota Legislature created the Educational Attainment Goal which has set a target that by 2025, 70 percent of Minnesotan adults aged 25 to 44 will have attained a postsecondary certificate or degree. There are benchmarks in place for race and ethnicity within that goal to focus on gaps that currently exist and better target support for BIPOC populations. Currently 62% of all Minnesotans have reached the education attainment goal.
RETAIN Program Overview
Nancy Omondi and Akiatu Pratt from DEED shared information on a new program that helps ill or injured workers return to work. The Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN) Program was created to increase employment retention and labor force participation of ill and injured individuals and reduce long-term work disability. According to the Department of Labor, 43% of workers at some point in their life will be impacted by an illness or injury that will affect their work. To apply you must live and work in Minnesota, have an injury or illness that affects employment and are employed or looking for employment. Once enrolled, RETAIN will assign the participant a Return-to-Work Case Manager to coordinate with their healthcare provider, employer and workforce development team to help the ill or injured worker remain in the workforce.