Building a New Generation of Equity through Policy Change
In 2020, the twin crises of COVID-19 and the killing of George Floyd laid bare pervasive inequities in Minnesota that disproportionately impacted indigenous, low-income, and racially diverse youth. Yet, these inequities aren’t new; in many cases, they are 400-plus years in the making. These inequities intersect all aspects of life—education, health, labor, housing, the criminal justice system, and more. They tarnish our state’s pride and impede our collective prosperity.
The time is now for bold, ambitious policy action to permanently reverse these inequities. Our youth stand ready to usher in a new generation of equity in Minnesota as both the primary drivers and beneficiaries of this work. This multiyear, youth-centered, and youth-informed policy agenda spotlights priorities within three key impact areas—learning & leadership, economic opportunity, and health & safety—that will give rise to a new generation of equity and achieve Youthprise’s vision of a Minnesota where outcomes for youth are no longer predictable by race, geography, and social-economic status.

OUR PROCESS

This policy agenda was created through an inclusive and collaborative process designed to meet the needs of all youth across Minnesota. Our primary goal was to ensure that youth voice was woven throughout the creation process and at the center of the agenda. This goal was largely met through collaboration between the Youthprise Policy Team, Youth Participatory Action Research and Youth Engagement Team, and our partnership with MN Young Champions.
ENVIRONMENTAL SCAN

We conducted an environmental scan of through interviews with dozens of allied organizations. In these meetings, we wanted to learn about what needs these organizations are trying to meet through their policy work. We identified shared priorities that Youthprise could support and discussed which issues were best suited for Youthprise to lead. Most importantly, we built collaborative relationships.

YOUTH-LED FOCUS GROUPS

We hosted youth-facilitated listening sessions/focus groups centered around the question, “What changes do you want to see?” We utilized the expertise of the MN Young Champions to co-write the questions they wanted to ask their peers, trained them in leading focus groups, and supported them as they facilitated and participated. Key themes from each focus group were identified.

YOUTH SOLUTION IDEATION SESSIONS

We invited participants of the previous focus groups along with other young people invested in the process to attend a solutions session. They were presented with the themes and quotes from participants around each major topic. Youth were broken into collaborative groups and led through a participatory process to generate solutions and recommendations around the key themes identified in the focus groups.

OUR PRIORITIES

We invest in learning opportunities that build knowledge, power, and agency among our youth. We support and amplify youth as leaders by building networks, developmental opportunities and shifting policy/laws.
We create opportunities for economic prosperity by increasing youth ownership and wealth as they define it. We work to promote youth entrepreneurship and ownership and increase access to “thriveable” career pathways.
We champion work that promotes the healing of our youth and their RIGHT to health & safety. We work to promote basic needs as a right and ensure young people have the resources to heal from criminalization and oppression in their communities.

Building Power: Leadership & Learning

The learning and leadership impact area promotes the learning, leadership, and socio-emotional development of youth and seeks to shift how programs engage youth in leadership and governance. Key themes that surfaced throughout the process were:
  • Lack of diverse representation in the school curriculum and staff/faculty
  • Need for alternative learning opportunities, like service-learning and vocational training
  • Demand for more civically engaged youth at decision-making tables
These themes can be seen throughout the policy priorities outlined below.

Leading:
  • Add youth to public governing bodies
  • Require at least two youth members on every school board, public board, council, and commission (including Workforce Development Boards) and allocate funding to provide technical assistance to prepare the governing bodies and youth for success.
  • (2024): HF 3682/SF 3746: Health education academic standards + adding students to all state standards processes moving forward.

Support:
Ensure access to advanced courses for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color students
  • Guarantee that BIPOC students have equitable access to honors, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, PSEO, and other dual enrollment courses to ensure they reach their full academic and career potential.
  • (2024): Full-time PSEO meal stipend pilot
  • Create a family-friendly MDE dashboard
  • Urge the Minnesota Department of Education to create a family-friendly dashboard and school rating system using a multi-measure assessment, not just test scores.
  • Raise the maximum age for enrollment in public schools
  • Provide opportunities for youth with more avenues to complete their education by raising the maximum age for enrollment in public schools to 24.

Accomplished:
Modernize the K-12 Education Tax Credit

Increase access to out-of-school time programs and educational computer hardware for low-income youth by:
  • Updated the income requirement and indexed it to inflation.
  • Increased the amount of the credit;
  • Simplified eligibility by aligning with the Earned Income Credit

Supported & Celebrate:
  • Expanded services supporting youth including $65 million in youth employment and training, $30 million for After School Community Learning grants, and more than $5 million to support youth exiting foster care.
  • $7 million per biennium in ongoing increases to Youth Intervention Program grants
  • $4.8 million in FY24-25 for support to help increase teachers of color and American Indian teachers, as well as to address teacher shortages in rural Minnesota.
  • Establishes the state goal of increasing the percentage of teachers in Minnesota who are of color or American Indian by at least 2% each year to have a teaching workforce that more closely reflects the state by 2040.

Advancing Ownership & Wealth: Economic Opportunity

The Economic Opportunity impact area focuses on opportunities for economic prosperity by supporting programs and initiatives that build workforce skills, promote youth entrepreneurship, and expose youth to career pathways. The key themes that surfaced throughout the process were:
  • Lack of jobs and financial resources
  • Insufficient quality and impact of support resources that do exist
  • Difficulty navigating existing support systems
These themes can be seen throughout the policy priorities outlined below.

Support:
  • Provide access to vital documents and prerequisites for driving to all youth
  • Ensure that all youth, especially foster children, have access to government IDs and the prerequisites for driving like driver’s education, a driver’s license, and car insurance.
  • Create equitable asset-building opportunities for families
  • Foster opportunities for families to build assets, especially those that help families save for post-secondary opportunities for youth.
  • Increase disaggregation of government workforce data
  • Reveal opportunities to bring about greater equity in employment by increasing the disaggregation of workforce data from government agencies at all levels.
  • Ensure competitive pay for internships and career exploration
  • Prevent unpaid or low-paying internships and career exploration opportunities from limiting access to career pathways for low-income students by ensuring these jobs pay competitive, livable wages.

Accomplished:
  • $500,000 in one-time funding for Children’s Savings Account start-up grants.
  • $6 million to fund the African Immigrant Youth Career Development Grants.
  • Make secondary school students eligible for unemployment insurance
  • Repeal the 1939 state law that prohibits secondary school students from being eligible for unemployment insurance. Supported & Celebrated!
  • $15.9 million in FY24-FY25 and $4.1 million per year ongoing increase for Youth-at-Work
  • $1 million per biennium to grow the Youth Justice Office and grants. The office allows the state to evaluate what is working and direct funding and policy that impact youth.

Promoting Healing through Health & Safety

The Health and Safety impact area focuses on promoting the holistic health & safety of young people by meeting basic health needs and ensuring young people are safe and not criminalized in their communities. Key themes that surfaced throughout the process were:
  • Struggles with mental health and difficulty accessing support and resources both in and out of school
  • Lack of affordable housing and major health resources
  • A critical examination of youth interactions with the justice system
These themes can be seen throughout the policy priorities outlined below.

Leading:
  • End youth homelessness in Minnesota
  • Break the troubling and avoidable trend of youth homelessness once and for all by:
  • Increasing permanent affordable housing for youth, especially for pregnant and parenting youth, foster youth, and youth involved in the juvenile justice system;
  • Making it easier for youth to connect with existing support systems.
  • HF4217/SF 4477: To build youth cooperative housing and create a youth-focused campus.

Support:
  • Prioritize mental health resources for youth
  • Guarantee every young person in Minnesota access to the mental health resources they need by:
  • Increasing funding for schools to hire professional mental health counselors, especially those that are representative of the student body.
  • Permitting students to have excused absences from school to address mental health needs.
  • Ensuring that youth have culturally relevant and specific resources to address chemical dependency and the impact of the opioid epidemic.
  • Advance the Minnesota Coalition for Youth Justice’s policy agenda
  • Work in collaboration with the Minnesota Coalition for Youth Justice to reduce youth interaction with the justice system while eliminating racial disparities and encouraging the adoption of anti-racist and culturally sound practices within the justice system.
  • Institute Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) for youth
  • Reduce summer childhood hunger by providing resources to purchase food during the summer months to families whose children receive free or reduced-price lunch during the school year, modeled after the successful Pandemic EBT program.

Accomplished:
  • $5.4 million one-time to implement a homeless youth cash stipend pilot project.

Support & Celebrate:
  • Invested nearly $100 million in children’s mental health supports.
  • $2.4 million per biennium ongoing to expand infant and early childhood mental health consultation to schools.
  • $4.2 million in FY24-FY25 and $1 million per year ongoing increase for Youthbuild.

Advance the Minnesota Coalition for Youth Justice’s policy agenda:
  • Work in collaboration with the Minnesota Coalition for Youth Justice to reduce youth interaction with the justice system while eliminating racial disparities and encouraging the adoption of anti-racist and culturally sound practices within the justice system.
  • $1 million per biennium to establish the Office of Restorative Practices. $8 million in FY 24-25 and $5 million per biennium in ongoing support for youth restorative practices grants.
  • $2 million per biennium to provide grants to local units of government to initiate or expand crossover youth practices model and dual-status youth programs for youth involved with or at risk of involvement with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.
  • Juvenile Disciplinary Room Time (DRT) and Strip Searches—The statute amendments will prohibit strip searches and isolation as punishment in juvenile facilities. It also require the DOC to engage in expedited and exempt rulemaking related to disciplinary room time.