Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Day Cut Short. Not much happened in the world of education at the Capitol Thursday as the transportation bill hit the floor of the House, canceling the afternoon hearing in the House K-12 Finance Division on the task force comparing Minnesota's special education rules and statutes to federal measures.

The House took up the omnibus transportation funding bill--HF 2800--in the early afternoon. Representative Bernie Lieder (DFL-Crookston), Chair of the House Transportation Finance Division and chief author of HF 2800 offered an amendment that scaled back the bill a bit, especially as it pertains to the metro-wide sales tax for transit. The Republicans offered a variety of amendments, both to Representative Lieder's amendment and the bill as a whole, with only one passing. The Lieder amendment passed on a vote of 98-34 and the bill passed on a final vote of 89-44. The final vote on the bill is one vote short of the number needed for a successful override of the Governor's promised veto. The Senate will be taking up the bill early next week where passage is assured, although the DFL will have to hold all of its members if an override attempt is made.

(LATE BREAKING EDIT: The Senate passed the transportation package on a vote of 47-20. The bill now goes to the Governor for an expected veto, setting up the first showdown of the 2008 legislative session.)

There were Education Hearings. The House E-12 Education Policy Committee met on Thursday morning and discussed three bills: HF 2982 (Bly): a bill that would create a five-year pilot program to measure effective learning strategies in charter schools and area learning centers; HF 3292 (Dittrich): the companion file to Senator Ann Lynch's SF 2811, which would set up a new management system for the public land that comprises property for the permanent school fund; and HF 3290 (S. Peterson): a bill that would provide revenue for kindergarten assessment and transition programs.

The Senate E-12 Budget Division featured a presentation by Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Alice Seagren (shown at right). Commissioner Seagren outlined the Governor's priorities for the coming session, principally the increased investment in training for math and science teachers. Other programs proposed by the Governor include: increased parental involvement, greater teacher recruitment, training, and accountability, and more technology in the classroom. It will be interesting to see how these proposals fare in the days ahead.

As stated earlier, the House K-12 Finance Division hearing scheduled for Thursday afternoon was cancelled.

Superintendents Meet with Governor Pawlenty. Whoever said that the phrase "distinguished superintendent" is an oxymoron obviously never ran into a set of superintendents this impressive. MASA Executive Director Charlie Kyte and the pictured posse had the opportunity to meet with the Governor today to discuss education issues, both in terms of funding and programs. There were no reports that the Governor was limping noticeably as the day wore on. Pictured (from the left) are Charlie, Brad Meeks (Farmington), Ric "Lefty" Dressen (Edina), Dennis Peterson (Minnetonka), Susan Hintz (Osseo), Dan Brooks (Sauk Centre) and Tom Westerhaus (Prior Lake). Mark Bezek (Elk River) arrived just after this picture was snapped. Roger Giroux (Anoka-Hennepin) also attended the meeting.

Budget Forecast Due Out Next Week. The February revenue forecast will be released next week and early indications are that the dire budget picture is going to become even more dire, perhaps to the point of real budget pain (as if we weren't already there). I will let you know the where's and when's of the forecast as details become available.

Alliance Meeting. The Alliance for Student Achievement met on Thursday morning and a variety of items were discussed. The date for the annual Alliance Summit has been set for October 17, the Friday of the Education Minnesota conference. The Alliance will be teaming up with EM on facilities in an effort to get more distance out of its investment. The Alliance Summit has become an extremely valuable event for educators throughout the state and I am certain the presenters at the 2008 Summit will maintain the tradition of excellence.

The Alliance 2008 platform has been finalized and will be available on the Alliance for Student Achievement website within the next few days. The Alliance website can be found at:

SEE Regional Meetings. The first in a series of five SEE regional meetings will be held in St. Cloud on Friday, February 29. If you haven't made arrangements to get to a regional meeting yet, please get your registration in. There will be a lot to talk about!

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