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Private school credits will not count at public schools

ST. PAUL—Public high school students in Minnesota will not likely be allowed to earn credits at private schools as one piece of legislation proposed.

Neither the state House nor Senate included in larger education bills a proposal to allow credits earned at private schools, including religious schools, to count towards up to one-third of graduation requirements.

No hearing was scheduled in the House. In the Senate, the bill was discussed in a hearing, but never made it any further.

Sen. Carla Nelson, the Rochester Republican education finance chairwoman, said one reason she omitted the provision from her larger education bill was because she was not able to hear testimony on it in her committee.

"It was clear to me there was still some controversy on the bill," Nelson said. "The fact that I was not able to hear the testimony on that provision, I felt that I couldn't put it in the omnibus bill."

Opponents of the bill say it could compromise public schools' graduation standards and complicate scheduling procedures.

But author Sen. Justin Eichorn, R-Grand Rapids, said his bill would help broaden families' school options and attract students who would otherwise only attend private schools.

"For example, if a private school offered Chinese, that's something kids are wanting to learn now," he said. "If a public school only had Spanish, a person could go over and take that credit for a Chinese class if the school board agreed to it."

A round of testimonies during a Senate hearing prompted Eichorn to make several amendments, including changing language to specify only "non-sectarian" credits could be earned at private schools.

Another amendment would have allowed school boards to decide whether to partner with private schools.

Current Minnesota law allows public students to take classes at private schools in addition to their graduation requirements, but public schools may not accept the credits towards graduation.

Although Eichorn said he does not plan to pursue the bill further this session, he is not ruling out the possibility of reintroducing the bill during a future legislative session.

"Like anything around here, it's one year at a time," he said.